My parents are often asked how they raised three children who remained steadfast in their faith throughout their youth and all went into full-time ministry (or married into it, at least!) I don’t know that my parents have a good answer for this. They will probably tell you that they raised us in a Christian home and made following the Lord a priority in our house. They might tell you about the years they helped run a children’s Vacation Bible School or the times they served as chaperones on our missions trips or about the foreign exchange students we hosted in our house and shared the gospel with. Perhaps their example just rubbed off on us kids, they might guess.
Probably all of the above reasons have something to do with it. Their Godly example certainly did influence us but certainly many parents have done the same things without similar results. I don’t know if I speak for my siblings, but I know what the answer is for me: My parents owned up to their mistakes.
My parents never pretended to be perfect Christian parents working from some sort of fail-proof parenting plan. Perhaps I noticed this more because I was the oldest, but I remember them making decisions then doubling back, apologizing, and deciding to move in a different direction.
I remember my mom sitting down with my sister and I after we’d had a big fight on the way home from Sunday School. She admitted that maybe she hadn’t made it a priority to focus on actually applying what we’d learned at church. She told us she wanted to do a better job of finding out what we’d learned in Sunday School and then holding all of us responsible to act on those lessons.
I remember my parents overreacting or engaging me in one of my stupid teenage arguments, then coming to me to apologize for their fault in the matter. I remember being forced to hug them and forgive them. I hated this.
These events affected me profoundly then, mostly because I was a stubborn girl who absolutely hated to give in, apologize, or admit fault. (Come to think of it, I still am!) I couldn’t believe they were willing to accept the blame!! It affects me even more profoundly as I face my own stubborn little girl. I want so badly to have the perfect plan for raising Claire to be obedient, kind, and others-oriented. I want so badly to never screw up because that seems the only sure-fire way to make sure she doesn’t turn out screwed up.
Then I remember my parents: overwhelmed by the ferocious fighting, frustrated at seeing their own character flaws reflected back to them, and humbled by the task of raising three kids to love the Lord. They were supposed to be the authority figures and I know they probably wanted to maintain the facade that they didn’t make mistakes so that we’d never grow up to question them. And yet… they chose not to awe us with their impeccable character or flawless performance, but rather to demonstrate to us that they, too, needed forgiveness.
Repentance, I believe, is more powerful than perfection. They taught us all that it was okay to make mistakes provided we could own up to those mistakes and apologize. They taught us that the “greatest of these” should be willing to ask forgiveness of the “least of these,” even children! They taught us that Christians are human beings.
I don’t know what I want Claire to be when she grows up. I don’t really have any ambitions for her career. I’d be proud if she chose to follow in the footsteps of any one of her uncles or aunts. All I really care about is that she knows forgiveness is available for those who are humble enough to ask for it.