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Three weeks ago I entered into a new stage in life. I joined the ranks of parenthood. My days and nights have been filled with things I have never experienced before: Diaper blow-outs, oft-interrupted nights of sleep, excessive amounts of laundry, pacifier strategies and car seat carrying workouts. We have entered into the glorious chaos of life as new parents.

What I have cherished most about welcoming Desmond into this world has been experiencing how God uniquely gifted Alli and I to provide for him. Seconds after he was born, Desmond began “rooting” – actively searching for his mother’s milk, which has been has sole sustenance thus far.  He is fully dependant on us for his feeding, sleeping, clothing, protection, and diaper changes. It is our biblical mandate as parents to provide for his needs:
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith.” 1 Timothy 5:8
If we believe that to be true—that God created parents as providers—shouldn’t Christian charity affirm that principle? Conversely; Christian charity which undermines or supplants the role of parents is not aligned with God’s design. This does not apply, of course, to children whose parents are incapable or unwilling to provide for their children. These children – orphans in many regards (at least emotionally, if not physically) – are our responsibility as the Church. We are instructed to care for these children as if they were our own.
Our obligation, an area where we often take charitable missteps, is to the parents who are capable and willing to be providers. Frankly, it’s much smoother, quicker, and often more fulfilling, to provide direct assistance to children than it is to equip parents to provide…and I am the chief sinner! A few months ago I wrote about how I personally eroded the dignity of several parents via a Christmas gift giveaway. Likewise, I have been on missions trips and service projects where we have circumvented parental involvement because involving them was deemed too messy.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to watch as a complete stranger showed up every few hours to feed Desmond or change his diaper, despite our desire to do so ourselves. It would break my heart to feel as if I was incapable of providing for him. And yet, that is what the mother felt like when I showed up at her door with Christmas gifts for her kids while her children looked on.
It is not wrong to serve the needs of children. Alli and I have had overwhelming support even in our first month as parents from friends and family who have taken shifts watching him, provided meals for us and have held Desmond closely while we caught up on basic things like cleaning our apartment and showering. The way in which we have been served, however, has actually better equipped, rather than supplanted, us in our God-given role as providers. Our charity should do the same.