Summary: One of the uncomfortable realities about parenting is that we don’t know as much as we think we know. This is the final message in our series: Desperate Households. Today’s message deals with parenting, the toughest job on earth.
One of the uncomfortable realities about parenting is that we don’t know as much as we think we know. When I was younger I used to think I knew almost everything about my kids. But the older I get the more I realize how naïve I was. This is only scratching the surface about my naiveté, but my adult girls have told me things that went on in their room that I was clueless about: things like flicking buggers on one another as they fell asleep.
Realizing now how much I didn’t know about my kids has led me to temper my views about parenting. I used to think godly parenting was close to a science. I’m not sure if I got this from Christian books or from sermons or friends. But, basically, I believed if I did A, B & C then it would more or less guarantee that my kids would turn out healthy, wealthy and wise and be passionate about following Christ.
All I had to do was (A) be a model myself of radical faith in Christ, (B) invest plenty of time discipling my kids by memorizing scripture, having family devotions and serving together, and (C) pray faithfully every day. I assumed if I did those things it would guarantee my kids would reach adulthood unscathed from the world’s influences.
The problem is I did do A, B and C with zeal and commitment, but every one of my children still walked through deep valleys in their journey toward adulthood. I’m happy to say that today things are reasonably fine. All four kids are doing fairly well: they love the Lord and they’re living fairly responsibly as adults. But the journey along the way resulted in more tears and heartache than I ever imagined, both for my kids and for Pam and I.
When I was younger a wise older mentor warned me that it was likely one my children, in a fit of anger, one day would scream that they hated me. I smiled back naively thinking, “That won’t ever happen to me. I’m doing A, B and C much better than most parents. I’m radical about my faith; I invest time and effort intentionally discipling my kids and I pray for them every day. My kids would never say they hate me….even if they were angry.” Well, when the day came that one of my kids screamed that they hated me I remembered my friend’s words. And I was humbled.
I felt I needed to share this because I think too many Christian parents live in an idyllic, dream world like I did. Then when things don’t turn out like we thought they would, or like someone told us they would if we followed their formula for raising kids, we can become bitter at God or we can begin second guessing ourselves. That’s why I’ve begun this teaching sharing some of my own journey as a parent. I’m not exaggerating with my title for this message. I believe parenting is the toughest job on earth.
Honestly I’ve never met a parent who didn’t try their best. I know deadbeat parents are out there, but personally I have never met one. The parents I know sacrifice; they do the best they can with the skills and background they have. But, sadly, I think the church has too often heaped guilt on parents who have done their level best but things still didn’t work out well with their kids. I remember a few years ago a gal told me she was skipping church when she heard I was talking about raising kids. She said it was too painful. At the time her son was in prison. She had raised him in the church; she did her best to train him up in God’s ways, but he had made a ton of bad choices. The gal told me her son’s choices broke her heart—and if you are a parent of an adult child who’s made bad decisions you know exactly how she felt. She told me she didn’t want to go to church that weekend because she thought it might heap even more guilt on her than she already felt.
Friends, that’s not my purpose today. I don’t want anyone walking out of here feeling guilty. Like I said earlier, years ago I was pretty cocky when I taught about parenting. I had read the books; I knew the Scriptures; I was doing all the “right things.” But it didn’t prevent the tears or the dark nights staring at the ceiling asking God “why?” Today I won’t share any iron clad promises that guarantee your kids will turn out perfectly. I wish I could, but now I realize those promises aren’t in the Bible, despite what some may suggest. Instead, I want to point out two basic principles to help parents fulfill their difficult role in a God-honoring manner. These are the things parents are responsible to do. But these principles won’t necessarily guarantee how your kids turn out. In parenting the only guarantee we have is that God will be with us and his strength will be sufficient for every challenge we encounter.