I love the plaque that is sitting on our kitchen counter. The message it contains has become a favorite of mine. I believe passionately in what it communicates. It clearly portrays our hearts’ desire for our family.
In this house, we do second chances. We do grace, we do real, we do mistakes, we do I’m sorrys, we do hugs, we do family, we do….love.
We are just a normal family. We are imperfect. We have flaws in our parenting skills, and, although our desire is to become more like Jesus, we still fail. We have to continually work to strengthen our relationships. We often need to ask forgiveness from our heavenly Father and from each other for wrong attitudes or actions. We sometimes struggle to know when to show grace to our children and when correction is needed.
Yesterday, I was talking to one of our teenage daughters about an area in her life that she was struggling with. It wasn’t a defiant or rebellious attitude, but rather a subtle issue. After talking a bit, she identified what the root problem was and then asked forgiveness for the wrong attitude she demonstrated. After we were done, she gave me a hug, and there was an element of freedom in her life that she didn’t have before.
Sometimes, I have taken the easier route, choosing not to “rock the boat” and just overlook issues. After all, doesn’t love cover a multitude of sins? Yes, it does. However, I have a burden on my heart for the careless ways that we are raising our children within our Christian homes. We see all the “good” things that we are filling their lives with but forget that we are actually supposed to be preparing them for “battle.” Our purpose, as parents, is about much more than just keeping our children out of trouble.
When our teenagers are kept busy with constructive youth activities, we take for granted that they are with the right friends and doing the activities that we approve of. We choose to be engaged with social media, sports, or our own circle of friends, yet…we don’t engage with our children like we should. I think we often see the wrong attitudes in our children and choose to “let it go.” But is love our true motive for doing this? Unfortunately, most of the time, I believe the true reason is because we just don’t have the energy–or think we have the time–to deal with it.
We seem to know just how far we can go before we make the “volcano” erupt. There are some subjects that we may just avoid. Consequently, this never produces a healthy relationship. Because our social lives are so crammed full, we seldom find the time to work out the hidden struggles within our families. When our children are preoccupied with school, friends, and various sports events, the tension diminishes. The “problem” thus becomes the solution. But…does it really?
It is always a good idea to examine our hearts to see what our motive is for being engaged (or disengaged) with our children. What does it take for our children to get our attention? Are we more concerned for them or that their actions will bring shame to us? Our children can see through our actions and sense our true motives.
Although, we may be redeemed and forgiven children of God, it is inevitable that our children will see us struggle with sin until the day we die. We need to be humble and transparent with them and admit it.
When I was a young girl growing up, my brother thought he was heroically helping his family by killing a skunk that had fallen into a window well beside our house. Although he shot the skunk a few times, it was able to revengefully spray its horrible odor in the process. Words cannot describe how awful the stench that filled our whole house was, for not only days, but weeks later! We tried EVERYTHING to get the smell out of our house. We washed all the clothes, linens, and draperies in our house. Even after all of that, whenever we climbed onto the school bus the other children groaned and held their noses. We smelled like the stinky SKUNK even though we desperately tried to cover up the evidence of our unwanted “guest”!
Maybe you have the unwanted “guest” in your home called hypocrisy. You may be doing your best to cover up the “stench” that comes along with this lurking visitor. No matter how much you try, it is hard to conceal this disgusting odor. Your children may see your strained marriage relationship as you give each other the silent treatment at home, but pretend like nothing is wrong when you are with others. You may have a big problem with someone at church, and your children hear you slandering them. However, on Sunday, as you worship with them at church, your children see right through the “mask” you put on as you pretend that everything is fine.
Our children need to see that we are real and genuine. They need to see that we aren’t speaking one language to them while living another one. Our teenagers need to see that, although we may have issues in our marriages, we resolve them in a godly manner. When we acknowledge our shortcomings and the sin that our children see us struggling with, we equip them with invaluable tools, enabling them to also walk in freedom.
As I was sitting here at a local coffeehouse, God gave me another glimpse of what we need to be preparing our children for. What we are competing against. I just had a long talk with a “born again” homosexual man, and it gave me the alarming perspective of what this world’s philosophy is.
This man began openly sharing his life to me. I learned that he and his partner are writing a book about helping young people to be REAL and to know WHO they are–whether their heart tells them they are a male or female. “Jack” is the “mother” to his two teenage daughters. He was proudly describing how transparent his family is with each other, and how they allow their girls to decide if they are male or female. Although he was describing how important it is to stop wearing masks and to be honest with each other, (which was just what I was writing on!) I knew we were coming from completely different perspectives. When he started down the predictable, familiar path of Christians not judging each other, I told him that he was right. God is the judge, but the Bible clearly states that we should also not continue to live in sin. Even though “Jack” claimed to be a Christian, he gave the Bible no credit, so he had absolutely nothing on which to base right from wrong. I was able to gently share that it is a dangerous mentality to believe we can choose what is right rather than allowing God to be God and obeying what He says. As we shook hands, “Jack” said, “You can’t help someone change if they don’t want help.” I couldn’t have agreed any more.
It is vitally important that we know what our children are facing in our culture today. They are being exposed to the extreme “judge not” mentality and the teaching that all paths lead to God. It doesn’t matter how they live. This view of peace, love, belonging, and complete acceptance are the strong magnets that attract our teenagers if they feel unaccepted or condemned at home. Of course, this is Satan’s snare to trap them and take them further down the road of destruction. “Jack” admitted that the homosexual, teenage suicide rates are alarmingly high. We know this sinful path isn’t the answer either!
Here’s the good news…Our children desire to have a close relationship with us. They want not only our unconditional love, genuine admiration for their godly character traits, forgiveness when they mess up, and sound advice, BUT they also want our time, attention, hugs, and even our established boundaries. Most of all, our children want to know that we are being REAL! Our walk needs to line up with our talk.
When we are living humbly rather than hypocritically, we will be quick to say, “I’m sorry.” We will see tears of repentance from our teenagers, as well, as they become aware of their wrong motives or actions. When we are honest with ourselves, we know that, although we are “greatly blessed and highly favored,” our hearts are still desperately wicked. We need to be honest with ourselves and with each of our children. We shouldn’t be quick to judge or cast blame or expect others to treat us like a fine china tea cup. Rather than seeking feel-good-about-yourself helps, seek after godly messages that motivate and challenge because you desire to grow into the image of your Savior.
Your family has been given the high calling of representing the compassionate and throbbing heart of Jesus. This is no small task, and it should never be placed on the same level of importance as other peer relationships, sports, social media or even ministry. Rise up and prepare for battle!
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)