Monday, August 04, 2014

When You Make a Rotten Shepherd. . . (and the absolutely wrong response to that reality)


(Please read through to the end, or you will totally miss the main thrust of what I'm trying to say.)

I love Shepherding a Child's Heart. Really, truly. I recommend it to any new parent, old parent, middle-aged parent. Non-parent. Wanna-be-parent. Wanna-not-be-parent. . . You get the idea. It's a great starting point.

STARTING POINT. You see, I don't know about other parents reading this, but I make a really second-rate shepherd. For reals. Now, clarification: I used to be a perfect parent. But then I had kids, and it's been a humbling experience ever since.

And also? My sheep don't get into arguments in a "shepherding a child's heart" sort of way. And one of my dear sheep does not respond to discipline in any way that resembles a "shepherding the child's heart" sort of scenario. At. all. Reading Tripp's book and parenting my dear child is like trying to consult a sewing machine manual for help on replacing the fuel valve in a car.

But back to me. You see, as much as I want to be the most perfect, patient, giving, loving example and shepherd to my kids, always turning each discipline session into a cherished discipleship moment, I don't. Sometimes, yes. I have many sweet memories (past and present) of sweet talks with my kids about their sin, my sin, and God's grace. God is gracious to give those moments (and memories) to imperfect parents. Thank you, Lord.

But sometimes life prevents a discipline session from being deeply meaningful. Multiple children certainly make it more challenging, as a parent might be dealing with a wailing baby and an unrepentant child at the same time, as just one example. But more to the point than life circumstances, sin prevents many of the discipline sessions in our house from being deeply meaningful. My sin. My desire for quickly rebuking and getting back to the previous task. A quick punishment and a "just tell your sister you're sorry already!" My short temper. Sometimes my shouting. Sometimes my anger. Mine. Mine. Mine.

I've learned in my 6 years of parenting to ask my children's forgiveness. A LOT. We talk about my sin, just as we talk about theirs. Many times we sit down and pray prayers of repentance together. We pray for God to forgive my sin, and we pray for God to forgive their sin.

I read a really great article today that drives home some great encouragement and hope for insufficient shepherds like myself. Go and read it! I love, love, love the author's conclusion:
"My point in all this? I’m going to parent my kids as best as I can, according to all the wise principles I’ve learned from the Bible itself and authors. But when it comes down to it, God absolutely must be the one who saves my kids." 
That's it. That's what parents (myself included) must cling to. We can't cling to our methods, our children's outward behavior, their seemingly moral outward appearance, or their social or psychological stability.

God saves sinners.
He save some sinners who are parents.
Despite their rotten parenting.
He saves many of those parents' children.
Despite their rotten parenting.
Because GOD saves!
We do not. Oh, I'm so glad we do not. Or we'd fail.

Take heart that God used rotten parents like Adam and Eve, David, Aaron, Eli - the list could go on. Sometimes God had to bring condemnation on their children, but sometimes He raised up a godly generation after these parents, despite their shortcomings. God works with broken people and broken families.

But. . .

Please, my encouragement today to other parents: don't "give up on perfection." For yourself or your children.  That is where our culture totally misses the point of reality. So often, I see my generation disenchanted with the legalism and outward conformity that has been so popular in fundamentalist Christianity in the last decades. We see the Phariseeism, and we want nothing to do with it.

But our response?

"I've given up on perfection."
"Jesus loves me, flaws and all."
"I'm never going to be Super Mom, so I'm embracing who I am."
"I'd rather have scruffy children who love God, than little Pharisees."
"All the moms I know yell at their kids. It's just something everyone does. We don't have to repent of that."

Well, wow. None of that comes from scripture. And surely there is a middle road between banshee-children-who-are-never-disciplined and little Pharisees!

God meets us where we are, but He never encourages us to stay there. He never says, "There, there. I love you just like you are, so why search higher?" God does love us where we're at. But He commands (not just suggests) that we grow, that we painfully learn, that we stretch ourselves and our hopes and desires. (Actually, that we burn those and grasp Him.)

He commands, Be ye perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.
He commands that daily, we die to self.
We are to run the race set before us. (not jog the race lazily, or sit down and nap, or give up).
We are to present ourselves to God as living sacrifices.
We are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And one of the things that comes with that growth and knowledge? A knowledge of our sin. But a desire to love the Lord our God by bending our will to His. Not to earn salvation, but because we are saved.

Any great musician will admit that perfect performances are either extremely rare or non-existent. But does a great musician aim for mediocrity or "pretty good"? No! A great musician AIMS for perfection. He practices and critiques his own work and learns from mistakes and continues to mold his talents and search out his flaws. He aims for perfection. And that is the only way he will ever give a great performance. By aiming for perfection.

No matter how hard we try, we will never be perfect parents in this life. I certainly won't be. We can despair and give up, or we can run to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. We can cry "Abba, Father," to the only perfect Father that ever was. We can repent of our daily failures as parents, but look to our Heavenly Father for wisdom, as we continually run the race that is set before us.

We can strive for what is ahead.

We can delight in the sweet tastes of tuneful melodies we are graciously able to witness in our lives and the lives of our children. And we can pray and look forward to the lush, majestic and PERFECT symphonies that we will have in the world to come.

God makes all things beautiful, in His time. Even my parenting. Isn't grace amazing?