|Image courtesy of Nathan Greenwood at FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
As a parent of three, I worry about how well I am raising my kids. Like you, pressure mounts all around me for all the things that I ought to be doing for my children. The opinions that come from friends, family and just the cultural expectations of what make a good parent constantly berate my efforts and seem to tell me that no matter how much I am doing for them, I can always be doing more. And worse, that little bit more, my fears whisper, is the essential ingredient that I am missing.
Right now, my fear has been fixated on my kids teeth. My children have inherited my teeth. (To give an idea of what kind of nightmare that is, in and of itself, just imagine four years of braces with a jaw operation thrown in just to correct the overbite that came with the teeth.) What convicts me is how little has been done with them over the years they have grown up, especially when one of my children mentions that they would love to have it fixed. During those moments, it's like a dagger to the heart and lays waste any good I may have ever done in behalf of my children, branding me with a scarlet letter scarred just beneath the whitewashed exterior I try to hide behind.
Even writing this entry on the blog evokes fears of others reading this blog and the judgment, only in my imagination, of how horrible a father I am for allowing their teeth to get this way.
While my current bane happens to be my kids teeth, I'm willing to bet that if you have kids, you too struggle with that little something that brands you a "bad" parent too.
Maybe you've divorced and you don't get to see your children as much as you would like?
Maybe your work schedule just keeps you away from your kids all the time?
Maybe you can't afford ________, and you have been told that it is really needed?
So what is our reaction when we feel that we don't measure up to the standards that have been set around us? Often times, we buy them things that they want, but don't necessarily need. Or we get our kids involved in everything, hoping that the extra activity will convey to our children how much we love them. We can be tricked to hand our kids everything on a silver platter in hopes that placating this temporal need will somehow cover the stain we perceive is on our imperfect parenthood.
But are our perceived failures really the problem and is all the well-intentioned advice we receive from those around us really the answer?
In the midst of one of my flipping out sessions over how awful a parent I was, my wonderful wife reminded me of how people are getting braces as grown ups today and pointed to many of our friends who fell into that category. Her words calmed me as she reminded me that even if my kids never got their teeth straightened, that alone cannot make me a good or bad parent.
Biblically, it doesn't even register on God's top 100. On the day that I meet Christ face-to-face, He will not stand in disapproval of me saying, "Jeremy, Jeremy...why didn't you get your kids' teeth straightened?"
But there is an expectation around us that places a great deal of focus on the temporal, be it braces or sports/activities or things you can give your kids, combined with the knowledge that there isn't one of us that is a perfect parent that agitates this fear that launches us into even more temporal situations at the expense of the eternal. We lose the perspective of God on these very issues that we are struggling with and often accept without a critical eye a solution which is neither biblical nor quells our fears that we are now doing any better at this parenting thing than we were before...we are just busier, poorer and more tired and weary. Our busier lives have robbed us of the eternal and the enemy has done a great job of putting our faith on the backburner, evidenced by the lack of knowledge of the Word of God by those called by His name.
Now don't get the idea that this post only exists to show further proof of how we as parents fall short. This is where my mind went when Shannon told me that it didn't matter in the eyes of God. I started thinking about what did matter in His eyes and immediately thought, "Wow, I've fallen short here too. My kids aren't reading the Bible like they used to. We don't pray as much as we used to. We don't outreach as a family as much as we used to."
All of those things were true, to be sure. But in His presence is also where the answer to our everyday dilemma of not measuring up is ultimately found. By not spending our time with Him or building that foundation with our kids, we are left defenseless against the enemy's attacks on our faith or the world's pressure to be the kind of parent they want us to be at the expense of being the kind of parent God wants us to be.
Through the Word, we are reminded that in God's economy, it isn't that we are ever going to be the perfect parent, but that God has provided a perfect sacrifice to cover our imperfections. He wants to give us peace, not as the world gives, some sort of false pretense that we can never measure up to, but His peace that surpasses all understanding and every circumstance we will face in life. We really don't have to do more things...just learn to rest in Him.
The only way we truly fail in our parenting isn't if we fall short of the world's standards around us, but if we fail to convey this peace, joy and knowledge of Christ to our children so they may follow Him and know that peace for themselves. Maybe, just maybe, by building this foundation, we will save our children of the same insecurities that we face as parents and gain the confidence that through Christ all things are possible...even parenting.
Click here to gain God's perspective on our dilemma and His solution.