A few nights ago I snuggled into my four-year-old son’s bed and settled in to tell him stories. He warmly smiled at me and said, “Mommy, I love you even though you get angry with me sometimes.” Instead of focusing on the fact that my son was confessing his unconditional love for me, I couldn’t help but feel the sting of his words – they didn’t line up with the Mommy I so desperately want to be.
I’m generally a pretty laid back person. Perhaps that comes from being the youngest of five kids. By the time I came along, my parents had adopted a much more relaxed parenting style than they had with my older siblings. I determined that I’d adopt their relaxed style from the beginning – I’d just go ahead and parent my first born with lots of love and grace just as God pours out love and grace on his children.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t quite worked out that way, so when my four-year-old son kindly reminded me of how I’d failed him that day, it hurt my pride and left me scrambling for excuses.
Deep down, I know that God (and my son) see my sin for what it is – sin
“Well, I got angry because you were pummeling your brother…
Because you deliberately disobeyed…
Because you wouldn’t be patient when I was trying to get lunch ready…
Because you snatched that toy out of your brother’s hand…”
Confronted with my sin I found myself pushing the blame back on my son, just like Adam did in the garden with Eve. “The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’” (Genesis 3:12)
Like Adam, I want to say, “Look, God, it’s this child you gave me. I could be such an awesome mom (and not sin), if my son wouldn’t be so __________(fill in the blank – disobedient, selfish, impatient, etc.).
And yet, deep down, I know that God (and my son) see my sin for what it is – sin. When I can get past my own pride and excuses, and allow the Holy Spirit to convict me of my sin, I’m given a beautiful opportunity to ask my child for forgiveness and point him toward the hope of the gospel, rather than simply asking him to try harder and do better, “so that Mommy won’t have to get angry next time.”
Instead of despairing in our failures as parents or trying to pass the blame on our children, we should embrace the opportunity to point our children to Jesus.
My hope isn’t that I become the “awesome Mom” that I want to be. Rather, my hope is in Jesus’ saving grace that reconciles me to my son, and me to God. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” That means all people – all parents and all teachers and all those in authority.
Instead of despairing in our failures as parents or trying to pass the blame on our children, we should embrace the opportunity to point our children to Jesus with lots of conversations and apologies followed by “Mommy (or Daddy) needs Jesus too.”
This can be so hard though, especially when apologizing to a young child. As parents or teachers, we fear that our child may not realize that what he or she did was wrong if we apologize for our reaction to their wrong, but this is a dangerous mentality to have. When I was growing up the general attitude in society (yes, in church and school too) was “I’m the adult. You’re the child.” And, sometimes this attitude kept adults from apologizing when they were in the wrong. I believe this legalistic attitude led to:
- Kids assuming that the adults in their lives must be perfect and idolizing them, leaving the child to wonder why he or she couldn’t measure up or “just be perfect” like them.
- Kids (or teenagers) seeing through the hypocrisy of the adults and rebelling out rightly.
Jesus told the Pharisees, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (Luke 11:46)
We become Pharisees ourselves when we chide our children with all their imperfections, but fail to confess our own.
We become Pharisees ourselves when we chide our children with all their imperfections, but fail to confess our own. We ask our kids to be obedient to us, but are we obedient to God? We ask them to be patient with their siblings, but are we patient with them? We scold them when they get angry, but what about when we respond to them in anger?
We, like the Pharisees, are weighing our children down with heavy burdens, but we’re failing to lift a finger to lighten their load if we aren’t confessing our own sins or if we are failing to point them to Jesus and the gospel when they sin.
The truth is that no matter how hard we try, we can’t muster up the strength to be perfect parents. We will fail our children, and they will fail us. But, we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus has already been perfect on our behalf, and that He willingly takes on our sin and gives us his righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Instead of asking our kids (and/or ourselves) to “do better and try harder,” let’s continually hold fast to the freedom we have in Christ and the grace of the gospel. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
As parents that means we can give up chasing perfection and take comfort in His daily grace for us. Not that we won’t sin again (because we will), but rather that we are slaves to Christ and free from bearing the weight of our sin because He bore it for us on the cross.
As parents that means we can give up chasing perfection and take comfort in His daily grace for us.
Of course, as parents we should continually pray for our children to come to know Jesus as their Savior. As Christians we have the same hope for our children that we have for ourselves – that God will continue to lead us and work in us. Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
As Christian parents and teachers we should be quick to model forgiveness to our children when we wrong them and to allow our shortcomings to point our children to the gospel and Christ’s perfection, rather than our own.
We aren’t perfect, but God is. And, there is hope and freedom in Him alone, for us and for our children.
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Image Credit: Giogio Minguzzi, Creative Commons