This morning, while walking with a friend, I shared that I was writing this week’s article on what parents go through if their children disappoint them. Her response? “Don’t you mean “when” instead of “if”? Perhaps you agree, so let me ask this question: how do you respond when your kids disappoint you? You know, when they fail to live up to the standards and values you have tried so hard to instill in them?
Many of you readers know what I’m talking about. You helped your kiddos in their studies, faithfully took them to church every Sunday, encouraged them in whatever activities they loved and taught them right from wrong. But they make choices that clearly aren’t wise and ones you never would recommend.
They begin to run with the wrong crowd. Fail to take their studies seriously. Sneak out at night. Act promiscuously. Spend too much time on video games. Vape. Do drugs. Close you out of their lives and build a quiet resentment towards you. Marry a slug. Turn from God.
And you, as a Christian, enter into the world of “cover up.” After all, what will other believers think? You know, the ones who birthed the kind of child you deserved. The ones with the perfect sons and daughters who were potty trained before they could walk and wrote math manuals in first grade and will grow up to be keynote speakers at Christian conferences and lead others to Christ on a daily basis.
You sit in study groups with those parents and listen as they share the depth of their children’s faith while you squirm and silently, desperately, try to conjure up something somewhat spiritual you can brag about, hopefully redeeming the reputation of your child. Let’s see…this week you didn’t get a call from his teacher, and no police officer has shown up at your doorstep this month. Yippee!!! Time to hang the piñata and celebrate.
Dave and I were embarrassed on more than one occasion with the behavior of our children. Behavior that we did not cover up. Behavior that was discussed openly in whatever town we lived at the time. Oh, we would talk to our kids about their actions, and for a while–like an hour or two–they would follow our guidance, but within a short time, they would revert to a life of disobedience. In response, I would sign up for every Christian conference dealing with raising godly children.
The speaker’s story was always the same. She had prayed and fasted from the time she was ten years old, just anticipating the day she would have children. Her kids now were missionary doctors in the Cambodia jungles, as were her adult grandchildren. (I’m not exaggerating…by much.) I would sit there, wanting to smack her upside her cheery little head, fearful that my children would end up in the penitentiary…and they weren’t yet in kindergarten.
What had Dave and I done wrong? We looked to the Bible for comfort and were introduced to parents who loved God but had children who disappointed. Eli, the high priest at the temple and the one asked to raise Samuel, had two sons who died after defying God’s rules. Samuel, the prophet whose life was dedicated to God, had sons who did not follow in his virtuous footsteps. King David (“a man after God’s own heart”) birthed a rapist, a murderer and two sons who started a coup against their dad. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so bad.
Being filled with guilt over how we hadn’t parented well was pointless. Sure, we weren’t perfect, but it’s not like we trained our kids to defy us…or God. I mean, our sons might have used each other for target practice, bloodied each other’s lips on a semi-regular basis, tackled too hard, pushed a brother through the dry wall in retaliation for a ping-pong paddle to his head, or hung the younger sibling upside down from the tree fort, but none of them turned from God or committed the crimes of these Biblical children.
Is it any wonder I find great comfort in reading my Bible?