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Whatever else can be said about parenting, for those who follow Jesus, parenting is an act of hope. It is an act of hope because any form of creation, any bringing forth of life, any act of “be fruitful and multiply” requires a vision that can see beyond the pain of the present to the eternal love that holds us all.

When I became a parent for the first time, I found that Debra Rienstra’s words in her book Great with Child spoke for me. She talked about becoming a parent as an act of recklessness: “Even the most carefully planned and intensely wanted baby must begin with the parents saying Yes to something they cannot control.” For her, and for me, this kind of reckless decision is only possible because of an abiding trust in God’s care and providence. Bringing new life into the world is an expression that life is worth living; it’s an expression of hope in God.

So even deciding to become a parent in the first place is an act of hope. Adoptive and foster parents have additional, beautiful layers of hope in their own decision. And then raising children, as I am doing now, is about inviting my children to hope. Maggie Smith ends her poem “Good Bones” like this:

Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

In this early stage of my children’s lives, I “sell them the world” by providing love and stability. They can accept the world as a place of safety and trust because I create an environment of structure and warmth. As my children grow older and discover the ways that the world is also a place of pain and conflict, my role as an encourager of hope will continue. Even as they become more independent, I still communicate a reason for hope as I move toward them in love.

The Oscar-winning film Everything Everywhere All at Once portrays parenting as an act of hope. The story includes so many strange and wonderful twists that it cannot fully be described, but one central plot element is the relationship between the main character, Evelyn, and her young adult daughter, Joy. Evelyn deals with past hurt from her relationship with her own father, and she struggles to accept Joy’s sexuality. But she loves her daughter fiercely, and fears losing her to a black hole of chaos represented at one point in the film by a giant everything bagel in an alternate universe (I told you it had strange and wonderful twists.).

The physical threat of Joy being sucked into the bagel of chaos matches an existential threat: she believes that in a universe of infinite possibilities, nothing matters. Joy is the villain in various alternate universes in the story, and she creates the bagel of chaos to end her own existence. The more Evelyn learns about these infinite possible universes, the more tempting that kind of nihilism becomes to her as well.

But Evelyn is encouraged by her husband, who says to her, “When I choose to see the good side of things, I’m not being naive. It is strategic and necessary. It’s how I’ve learned to survive through everything. I know you go through life with your fists held tight. You see yourself as a fighter. Well, I see myself as one too. This is how I fight.”

Evelyn is a fighter, but with this encouragement from her husband she becomes a fighter for hope. She pulls Joy out of the everything bagel, and she simply moves toward her in love. She accepts Joy’s girlfriend into the family. She confronts her own father about the way he hurt her. In yet another alternate universe, Evelyn is a rock who rolls down a hill toward the rock that is Joy, moving toward her once again.

Near the end of the film, Evelyn says to Joy, “Even after seeing everything, and giving up, you still went looking for me through all of this noise. And…no matter what, I still want to be here with you. I will always want to be here with you.” Her consistent and loving presence in her daughter’s life invites her out of the chaos and into a life of meaning.

As a follower of Jesus and as a parent, I am called to invite my children to hope. This wild, multiverse film reminds me that my most compelling invitation, my greatest fight against chaos and in favor of hope, may be in small daily acts of moving toward my children in love.

Header photo by Jenna Christina on Unsplash

Rebecca Jordan Heys

Rebecca Jordan Heys is the Minister of Worship and Pastoral Care at Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


  • Debra Rienstra says:

    Thanks for the shout-out, Rebecca! So glad that book has been meaningful to you. As the parent now of children in their 20s and 30s, I will affirm that surrendering control remains the most difficult spiritual challenge of parenting.

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    On this Lord’s Day I thank you very much.

  • Dale Wyngarden says:

    I first thought “This is one I could skip.” I’m sure glad I didn’t. Thank you.

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