It’s so easy to blame things on my parents. To think back on the ways they hurt me… whether they meant to or not. To remember their weaknesses and how they left me wounded… whether they meant to or not. To see my own shortcomings and issues today and somehow find their origins in my parents’ history of mistakes. Of course they also did many things the right way, and I so appreciate all the good they taught me as well. But sometimes, the bad is so hard to erase when you are in the thick of things, especially as a parent now myself.
As a young adult, when I was single and had no kids, I envisioned myself being a great mom. No, the best mom. Focusing in on what I perceived to lack from my own parents drove me to subconsciously swear and believe that I could both do and be better than them.
In my mind, I pictured being the kind of mom who would love my kids so deeply, be present, discipline them just right, always show patience, be funny, warm, cool, collected, and never lose my temper. And, I would never fight with my husband… ever.
Then I had kids. And well, I was wrong. Dead wrong. On my best days, I can kinda be some of those things, but those days are far fewer than I ever imagined or can bring myself to admit.
Then when we began thinking about this whole orphan care thing, I also started off fantasizing the same grandiose thoughts about how I would care for these children. If I’m going to be honest, there were also subtle levels of underlying pride and judgment against these kids’ parents as well, just like I had towards my own parents.
I will NEVER treat those children badly, I thought. After what they’ve gone through, I will be the greatest picture of love for them. I will be their advocate, the one to help them heal, the one to love them so much that no matter what kind of terrible situations they came from, they will grow into awesome human beings who will CHANGE THE WORLD.
Biological or not, I wanted the absolute very best for these ones who were entrusted into my care. All with good intention.
Yet the sad truth I quickly discovered was that good parenting is so much harder than I ever imagined. Not only is it a struggle because these kids push so many of my buttons, but we, parents, are also each battling with our own demons and personal issues as well. I battle with them daily. I know my parents did too. And so do the parents of these children being hosted in my home. We all struggle.
Consequently, the children almost always get the brunt end of this struggle. Slowly, our hearts forget the good we set out to do, and since our children are human as well, their flesh wars with ours. They disobey. I lash out. They turn into monsters. I turn into a greater monster. They crawl under my skin. My blood begins to boil. Back and forth, back and forth, and that picture-perfect mom I envisioned of myself fades quicker than I can help.
The scary thing is, before I know it, these little ones will be grown and have their own story to tell of what kind of parent I once was as well. I wince at the thought because whether I mean to or not, I make a lot of mistakes.
Yes, every single day I fail. It is so easy for my heart to turn the wrong way, even against my own my flesh and blood. I hate it.
Then again and again, daily I come back to this thought, I need to do better.
While sometimes I try to think that God is okay with sloppy parenting as long as I’ve “tried”, that He understands my struggle, and that we’re all fine, I know deep inside that everything really is not fine.
Of course God does understand, but in no way does He ever tell me that doing wrong in the way I raise my children is okay. Just like sin is never okay with the Father although He loves the sinner.
I need to do better.
The harder it gets, the more God shows me that I cannot settle with, accept, or get comfortable with less than “better.” Instead, He constantly reminds me that we are meant to do better always.
And He will help me because the way I parent the children in my care is of absolute critical importance. The entire next generation depends on it.
Lately, I’ve been reading the book of Malachi, the last book of the entire Old Testament which is basically a series of stories of people following God, then falling away from God. Generations turning to God, then generations falling away again. You see this constant back and forth and it finally ends with this very last verse which is the last prophecy we hear from God before the time of Jesus. And He ends with this:
“He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents.”
This is how God wanted to end the entire Old Testament? A word to children and parents? Yes. Absolutely. Because it is in this intimate, tender relationship between parent and child that the children will learn and hear of the Lord. Without that, we will face another godless generation.
We indeed need to be better.
Because God puts it inside of us to desire to be better, better everyday, for the sake of our children and for the sake of an entire generation of followers. Parents must turn their hearts to our children and the children must turn their hearts to their parents. For God longingly desires for this next generation to turn their hearts to Him.
And while I want this for me and my house, that is not enough. I want it for the families around me, for the children who come into our home and for their families as well. To follow, to know, to love the Lord.
So I end by turning my heart back towards my parents with this note:
Mom, dad, I forgive you. I know you did the best that you knew how to do and I’m thankful that indeed you have grown “better” everyday. I saw your lives transform before my eyes and from that, I have grown to have the greatest hope and confidence in the Lord. Thank you for teaching me that with God, all things are possible and that I can be better always.
“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” -Deuteronomy 11:18-19