Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sacred Parenting: Chapter 3: The Gold Behind the Guilt

I felt a little apprehensive about writing on this chapter. Guilt...it's such a complex thing. After reading the chapter, I didn't necessarily disagree with what he said, but at times I would find myself feeling uncomfortable...cautious to put too much stock into what he was saying. Is guilt a healthy thing? Or is it deceitful and distracting? Or is it both? In my life, guilt is like a schizophrenic friend, one minute she's helpful and convicting and directs me back to my Savior, the next minute she pulls me to the ground defeated and suffocating in my own self-absorption. How was I to post a discussion on this?! So, I read the chapter again. The second time, I didn't focus so much on the task of reconciling the tension of guilt, and I found he had some really helpful things to say.

1. Being a Perfect Parent:
I do want, try, pray to be a perfect parent. I don't say those words, "perfect parent" in my mind or in my prayers, but that is my goal, my expectation. (I am certainly not praying, "God, I really hope to be an above average parent." Thus, the only other option -in my mind -perfection.) This of course, being a foolish and impossible dream, leaves me feeling guilty everyday about something, sometimes it's just a little, sometimes it's a lot. Thomas lovingly exposes us...that we as parents will fail at times, we will do less than our best at times, we will make mistakes, and we will feel guilty for it, we just do. But in our tiresome, guilt-ridden effort to avoid mistakes and our misguided hope for perfection, we miss the point. God knows that we need Him to do this job, and He wants us to need Him. As we pray for our sons and daughters to become godly men and women, He is equally concerned with how we are learning and growing and being made holy. I thought the illustration at the end of the chapter was so helpful. Is God going to be more pleased with a parent who sought after perfection, came up short-handed and is frustrated and bitter? Or is He going to delight in the child (we are still His children, even if we are parents) who has tried hard, made mistakes, turned to Him for help and forgiveness and come out glorifying Him more because of it? I definitely think the latter!

2. If Not Perfection, then What?
I totally came away from this chapter with a healthier, more Biblical vision for our family. Before, I sort of pictured that "one day" Casey and I would be just about as close to perfect as parents can get, saying everything perfect and godly, having a Bible verse for every discussion and situation, no longer struggling with sin of our own, but ready and eager to direct our dear ones towards the God that we knew so perfectly. UGH! Gross! Again, I wouldn't have said that, but I honestly think I had some version of that ridiculousness floating around in my head. Thomas encourages a much more Christ-centered, real, authentic goal for our homes. He talks about our homes being like any other community we would want to be a part of...with real people, who make real mistakes, and have real struggles and can confess them and learn from one another. So, instead of mom and dad having all the perfect answers and the children simply watch, listen, and obey, we have parents who seek after God, confess when they fall short, and invite their children into the learning process with them. Let's teach our children how to respond when they sin...confession...repentance...instead of teaching them how to hide it! I liked these quotes:

"God had created an institution - the family - through which He can shape, mold, and form all of us, parents included. We come into the family as imperfect people, and we sin against each other everyday; yet through rubbing shoulders and learning to ask for, and offer, forgiveness, we all come out richer for taking part in this sometimes painful process."

"What is better for the kingdom of God? That my son and daughter would say, "I can never serve God like Dad did" or "If God can use my dad, he can use me"? There is no question - the latter statement is the reality that most serves God's purposes long term."

The goal is to create homes in which we are all seeking God. We make mistakes and we confess them. Our kids make mistakes and we forgive them. The aim isn't that our kids worship us - it is that they worship God and understand how much they need Him.

3. Women...We Need Other Women!
Thomas didn't talk about this really, but as I was reading this chapter and thinking through a conversation I had with some friends this week, the importance of community just fell on me once again. Just this week, I was struggling with these very things, feeling the weight of this responsibility. Feeling the weight of passing my sin onto my children. Feeling deeply inadequate. On Tuesday evenings the women of Christ Church get together to pray and I shared some of these things with them. Just confessing to them, sharing my struggles, praying together was such a blessing! I AM NOT ALONE! I am so blessed to have such friends, that I can reveal my imperfections and TOGETHER, we turn our hearts towards God and ask for help.

My second time through this chapter, I thought of Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own, when he says, "It's supposed to be hard, that's what makes it great." There is beauty in the struggle. If we were all perfect, I wouldn't need you and you wouldn't need me and we wouldn't ever cry out to God. But knowing how we've tried and failed and hurt and prayed for help, how much sweeter will these words be: "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

I left out a lot of good stuff, so those who are reading along, please bring to the table what you found important. I was going to put chapter 4 up tomorrow, but I think I'm going to wait a couple of days. Readers, let me know how you think this might work best...I'm still feeling it out.

Blessings~

4 comments:

annette said...

Steph,

You are so right about community. Community is something many Christians never think about....

xxoo Annette

Ashlee Liddell said...

A couple of thoughts on what you shared (this book is tops on my summer reading list...)

1) I think the point you made about community is so true. If parents are not part of true, honest, community in their lives how can they develop and nurture that environment in their homes.
It is also something I feel strongly in relation to how a lot of churches run their small groups/home groups, or whatever form they use for nurturing true community. I think it is so vital for kids to see those relationships in their parents lives, the priority they hold, and the commit they have to other believers. Often times churches do everything they can to "give parents a break" instead of seeing the opportunity to lay a foundation in their children's lives of community with others being vital.

2) I had a counseling prof in college who used to always say, "Guilt is not an emotion. Either you are guiltly or you are not." I don't know if that helps you sort through some of the things that might not have been sitting well with you. Once you adapt this mentality, then it becomes so easy to realize that either I have made a mistake, or my emotions are being manipulated.

I love the way you are going through the chapters, and the way you are sharing what wisdom you have gleaned and are wrestling with.

monique said...

Steph,
Mommy-guilt is such a powerful thing; I'd say it even tops hormones. Far too many decisions I make are driven by it. Thanks for posting on this. I loved what you shared, and may have to read the book now myself.

Cynthia said...

I wasn't able to get this book - but I did pick up "The Myth of the Perfect Mother" from the library. While I think her angle is a bit emotionally laden in some parts, I found that book extremely freeing. It touches on what you mentioned here - the idea that a mom must be perfect in order to raise Godly children. The most peace giving part, for me, was when she reminded me that if I was perfect, I would have no need for Jesus - and I would be teaching our children that they don't need Jesus either - at least not a real relationship with him, because perfection is attainable here on earth through our own doing. Yuck!

I am so less anxious about parenting, knowing that through my imperfections our children will see Christ better. Good - 'cause I've got a lot of them to see!