The other day I overheard a conversation. Two moms. One was telling the other, while talking about schooling choices and the spiritual good of your children “And of course you would never want to send them to public school!” Which of course I am doing with my kids. I felt my hackles rise and a bunch of retorts came to my tongue, which I of course didn’t say, because the moms weren’t talking to me, about me, or even meant for me to overhear them…They meant no offense. But I found myself mentally defending my parenting choices, and thinking, “I bet your kids aren’t going to turn out terrific just because you’re doing it a different way..” and then my final mental argument, “The proof is in the pudding!” You’ll see! My kids are going to turn out better than your kids and then you’ll know that you shouldn’t have been putting down my parental choices!!! And then I stopped, because by this time my mental defense was getting a bit ridiculous. The proof is in the pudding. What does that mean anyway? Does that mean that if my children all turn out to be law-abiding citizens who go to church every Sunday and marry within their faith and do good works…Does that mean that I get to claim the prize of “GREAT PARENT” ? And then you have to ask, well at what age do you assess your grown children to decide if you were successful or not..20, 30, 40? Ok, so what if you have 10 kids and one of them turns out to be a saint, but another one goes through a really rough period and does jail time? Am I a success or a failure? At what point in time does your children’s decisions rest squarely on their own shoulders and you are exonerated from any blame? Or, at what point in time do their good decisions reflect their own good character and not just the fact that they were “raised right”.
In the Christian circles that I walk in, there is a definite fallacy that we parents seem to hang on to very tightly. The fallacy is that our children are perfect little angels or at least, only mildly sinful, and it’s our job to keep them away from all negative influences, all exposure to evil, and keep them “pure” at all costs. If we do so, and we can launch them into society without a single wrinkle in their reputation, then we are good parents. We have done our Christian duty to raise our children right.
Guys, my parenting journey has taught me very clearly that this is WRONG! I am realizing more and more that I need my children to not be perfect..instead I need them to be aware of just how imperfect they are. I need them to know just how short of the mark they fall. I need them to be aware of just how desperately they need Jesus to come and wash away their sins. Because, they are definitely sinful people. We all are. I need them to see that their natural selfishness is sinful. I need them to see that their desire to always be right is prideful, and that’s sin. I need my kids to realize that just because they live in a church-going family does not mean that they are somehow better than the kids who have never set foot in a church door. I need them to know this about themselves so that they can know how badly they need Jesus and they can learn that He is the only one who is going to bring them forgiveness and peace in this world.
This means that I can’t parent with this idea that if I can turn out perfect children then I will win the parenting prize. No. That’s not the point. The point is to spend their childhood teaching them about this God who loves them, teaching them that HE is the Way the Truth and the Life. Everyone is nodding their heads right now, “of course, we all want our children to be saved..” If that is our goal, then we also need to realize that We can’t save our kids. It’s God who calls them. And he has this really annoying way of doing things in his own time. Not my time. This means, I might have a child leave my home who doesn’t know Jesus personally yet. Can I do anything about this? No. But, I can certainly make sure that they know everything there is to know about God, Jesus, and the Bible before they leave home. And I can make sure that they always feel loved by their family, and I can bring them daily before God in prayer, on my knees, asking him to bring my child to salvation.
In the end, I have to step off the comparison box. I have to remember that this whole parenting thing isn’t about turning out perfect individuals. Me looking around and deciding that my kid turned out better than your kid is just stupid. This is not a competition. We are all raising up the next generation, together. We have the same goal…to raise up children into adults who love God and love people and who will take over the running of this earth after we pass on. We don’t get different colored ribbons depending on how our grown child turns out. This parenting thing is not an 18 year long job. It’s a lifetime job. We will spend the rest of our lives praying for our children, praying that they will grow in their knowledge of God, praying that they will be wise, praying for their protection…
May we resist the urge to compare ourselves with each other, getting worried or defensive when other parents do things differently, and instead keep the end goal in sight…May we raise up our children to know God and be aware of their great need for him.