Friends, if we were all sitting together in one big room, I'd ask you this:
How many of you grew up in a perfect Christian home? Raise your hand!
Hands raised all over the room?? uhhhhhhh, No. Probably not.
Okay, How about a "pretty good" Christian home?
Now I see some hands, though some of you are cheating---your hand's half up, half down, and you're wiggling your fingers. (What does that mean?) But---that's encouraging!
Last go: How many of you were raised in a messy, chaotic, definitely NOT Christian home?
Ahhhhh, look around! Hands all over the room!
Do you see the great good news in this already for your family? (If not, hang on and we’ll get there in just a moment.)
So----Here was mine. I was raised in the woods of New England as one of 6 kids. My father was absent much of the time. Because he couldn’t keep a job, my family and I spent our years working on dilapidated houses. We’d move from one to another, most of them at least 150 years old. We all painted houses, scraped seven layers of wallpaper off 150 year old plaster, sanded pine floors, hung and taped sheetrock, roofed barns, cut down trees with a chainsaw. Some of the houses lacked insulation; one didn’t have running water. The house we lived in during my high school years had neither insulation nor heat, except for one wood stove in the kitchen that warmed only one room, leaving the other rooms below freezing through the long winters. Our father left us many times. We had few toys and possessions, and not much food. In one town, where I lived from 6th to 9th grade, we were threatened and harassed every day. We did have times of happiness along the way----camping trips every summer, the days we spent in the woods, the sledding and skating in the winter---but our lives were mostly sober and lonely. I could not imagine a future. We did not know about God. My father believed in UFO’s.
But I know that some of you grew up in much harder places and ways. You suffered abuse, neglect, despair, hopelessness. And because of that, you have vowed to live differently. You have vowed to break the cycle and start anew with your own kids. You’re going to love them---perfectly. You’re going to create the Christian home you never had. And those of you who grew up in a “pretty good” Christian home----you’ve got your list, too, of the things you’ll never repeat.
And those of you from a “perfect Christian home?” Oh, you poor things (though maybe only 2 of raised your hand for that one?) Because you’re probably trying HARDER than anyone else to replicate that perfection!!
And it’s not working, is it? I know, I know. So here’s the next myth I’m exposing in this series (from Parenting is Your Highest Calling .. . and Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt.)
"God will work best in my family when I get everything just right."
Do you know what I'm saying? We think God works best and most when we clear the path for him and create a lovely Christian home. I tried this. For close to 20 years.
But surely the Bible will help us out here! So let's go to the start of it all for just a minute: to the start of the world, the birth of the family: to Genesis.
The beginning is good, very very good: a perfect family! Adam and Eve knew God so intimately, they walked and conversed together in the garden in the cool of the evenings. But husband and wife wanted to rule over their own lives rather than submit to their loving Father. And there it went! Trust was gone. Creation was ruptured. Husband and wife were divided from one another, they were driven from God’s presence, the world turned wild and hostile. The human family was forever changed.
The first child born into this new world becomes a murderer, killing his only brother. (How could this happen? They were still living under God’s family design---one man, one woman joined in marriage before God, raising their children to know and worship God! But none of this protected them, or the son who was killed, from this brutal crime.)
From there, it doesn’t get much better. The patriarchs, the founders of our faith, patched together a confusing array of family relationships that included polygamy, concubines, single-parenting, divorce, sexual relations with servants, gender segregation and discrimination.
None of those families pass our own "Christian parenting test." But that didn't stop God! He used each of them powerfully to establish a people and a nation for Himself! And shall we talk about the family lives of Samson, David, Jepthah, Rahab, and many others whose families didn’t look anything like God’s Edenic ideal (or our ideal!)? YET each of these is listed in the Hebrews Hall of Faith as men and women who accomplished much for the kingdom of God!!
Are you with me still? Here is the stupendous good news! God will not be limited by the limitations of our families! God’s work in this world, the coming of His kingdom, is not dependent on your ability to create and maintain a perfect Christian home.
What can God do in single families, in struggling families? Anything he wants!
My own difficult family life presented no obstacles to God. In fact, it was the very poverty of our lives that God used to drew me to his riches. My own mistakes and failures in my family now will not hinder what God wants to do in and through my children.
I’m not telling you to stop raising your kids to know the Lord! I’m not telling you to celebrate fallenness so that grace may abound. Not at all! But we need to give up the idea that God can only bless our children and perform his saving and sanctifying work in them if I do my part exactly right. (If I bake all my own bread, take my kids to every church service, keep them off electronics, keep their hair short, forbid tattoos, never get angry . . . .) Let imperfection perform this good work in all of us: that it sends us to Him!!
I’ve found peace in the riot of my home. I’m not killing myself trying to be perfect. I know I'm not alone. God is with us as our redeemer, our sovereign, and also as a parent himself. God does not intend parenting to cripple us with our imperfections but to send us running freely to God. Parenting is so much less about me and so much more about God!
Though we’re all deeply flawed, God is still beautifully building his kingdom through us, and through every moment of our always imperfect, occasionally glorious home!!
Nothing will stop the good purposes of God for our children.
Not even you.
Nothing will be wasted.
Need more proof? This is the craggy tip of a much bigger iceberg. There's much more in the book itself. But right now, if you need more, consider the story of Samson. He was pretty much a failed son, a failed prophet and judge, right?? Listen to this surprising story again, with new ears:
P.P.S!! WINNERS of the Parenting Myths book! Congrats, Ladies! I pray it brings you joy and freedom as you parent (or grandparent)!
Siera, Jen P. Keri, Jennifer W., Michele M.
MORE GIVEAWAYS NEXT WEEK!