I have made an amazing discovery. Are you ready for this? I knew a lot more about parenting sixteen years and eight children ago. And, in the manner of all irony, I’ve also discovered that others think just the opposite and perceive me to be knowledgeable in parenting.
Perhaps it’s because we usually appear to be generally in one piece, the kids are usually well-mannered and obedient, and everyone is mostly clothed – except for this past Sunday morning when the four year old went to church with her lovely red and black Christmas dress, blue tights, and pink plastic flip flops.
But I digress. In spite of the pink flip flop fiasco, moms approach me regularly with parenting questions. Sometimes I just feel like saying: I have no idea. Good luck. Spend lots of time in prayer.
My lack-of-parenting-skill discovery started about a year or two ago when a few things came to my attention: the children that we had trained diligently and prayed fervently for were not always living up to what I expected from them.
Then there was the day that we realized that one of our children had been doing something that involved a lot of deception, lying, and well, lots of plain, old, ugly sin.
It sent both my husband and I reeling. We expected occasional disobedience, yes, but such blatant sin and craftiness in hiding it? Never.
That’s when a new word popped up in my Mom Vocabulary: “Failure”.
I was a complete and total failure as a mother. Come to think of it, I was a failure in a lot of other areas too. If I had a child who was disobeying in such a big area, I must be an utter failure as a Christian too – my poor example must have caused this, right?
No, details will not be forthcoming. We all have our own issues with our families, and specific details are not the point. Feeling like a failure is the point.
For this entire year I have struggled with feelings of failure — nearly on a daily basis. Are you with me on this one? If you’ve never felt like a failure, please step away from the computer. No, wait. Come back, because your day is coming.
I don’t mean that in a “oh, just you wait!” sense. But I do think that everyone – even mature, godly believers – will struggle with feeling like a failure.
Then God reminded me of a prophet named Ezekiel. Stay with me now – the Old Testament prophets actually have a lot to teach us! Many years ago, my dad preached a series of sermons on Ezekiel (I love pastors who actually preach straight from Scripture). Two things stuck in my mind:
God promised Ezekiel that he would be a failure.
God expected Ezekiel to obey anyway.
You see, Ezekiel had been commanded to preach to the people of Israel warning them of judgment. But God told him that the people weren’t going to listen and that Ezekiel’s ministry would be a failure. (Ezek. 2:5,7; 3:7)
What is the point, God? That’s what I’d be asking. Why would I go to these worthless people and waste my time if they’re not even going to listen?
Of course, God was absolutely right. Ezekiel preached. And they didn’t listen. But repeatedly, God turned Ezekiel’s eyes from his “failure” and to focus on God’s glory instead. Over and over, God stresses the theme of “Then you/they shall know that I am the Lord!” (6:7,14; 7:4,27)
Perhaps it would be worthwhile to consider that as a homeschooling parent right now. What if God told you that your children were going to disappoint you in every way? What if He said that they would end up rejecting you – and Him? What if God wants our focus to be on Him and doing what is right no matter the result?
If you are feeling like a failure, consider these four points that the Lord has been convicting me of:
1. God gave very little instruction on parenting in Scripture. So perhaps we should pay less attention to the myriad of parenting books that exist, books that bemoan the fact that Scripture doesn’t give more parenting instruction, and focus on what God did say in His Word.
2. God did give us a boatload of instructions on how we should be living our Christian lives. Obeying God’s Word – you know, things like kindness, contentment, praying steadfastly, edifying others with our speech – should be a natural result of our love for God and thankfulness for the grace He shows us.
3. Stop measuring failure and success by human standards. God requires that we are faithful. (I Cor. 4:2)
4. God gives us the power to complete what He wants us to do. What a liberating statement! (II Cor. 12:9; Eph. 3:20; Zech. 4:6) That doesn’t mean that being faithful is easy, but it does mean that God, through His Spirit, strengthens us to complete the task. And the results are up to Him!
So throw out that motherly measuring stick and stop thinking that you are a failure when your kid flunks another math test. Or can’t figure out where Uzbekistan is on
the map. Or throws a fit in front of the grandparents. Or thinks that Napoleon was the emperor of Minnesota. Yes, the latter is a direct quote from one of my offspring.
Be like Ezekiel. Do what God has clearly commanded you to do – read Romans 12 for a good start – and focus on being faithful, faithful, faithful in your Christian walk.
Leave the results up to God. And may the Lord change your parenting theme song from “F is for Failure” to “F is for Faithfulness”.
Gwen Toliver is the wife of John, the mother of five girls and three boys, and the author of Seed Sowers: Gospel-Planting Adventures. Her big family’s Texas-living, missions-embracing, God-loving adventures give her an unending stream of blog material at ToliversToTexas.com and SeedSowersTheBook.com.
Family/Ministry Blog – ToliversToTexas.com
Author Blog – SeedSowersTheBook.com