It is likely that we are asking the wrong questions as parents. We are so focused on ourselves—on our own need for success and the success of our children—that we have come to view parenting as a performance or a test. It appears we are failing the test, as large numbers of our youth leave the church when they leave our nests . . .
We cannot pass this test, I’m afraid, nor could we ever. If we are graded on a curve, we will always find parents and children who are more obedient, more joyful, and more peaceful than we are. We will find parents whose children turned out better than ours, parents with a higher percentage of “spiritual champions” than we can claim for our efforts.
If we are graded instead on an absolute scale—as I believe we are—we fail even more miserably. But this is why a Savior was provided, and gifted to us through grace, through faith—”and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). If even our ability to believe in God is given to us by God, then how much of parenting can we perform on our own? We must proceed, then, on our knees first, beggars before the throne, if we are to parent well.
We must rethink our assumptions and our calling as well. We are responsible to teach our children the fear of the Lord, to impress his laws on them when we “sit at home and when [we] walk along the road, when [we] lie down and when [we] get up”—meaning all the time (Deut. 6:7). And we are commanded to not exasperate our children, but to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). But we must be clear about our own limits. We are not capable of producing perfect followers of Christ, as if we were perfect ourselves. Our work cannot purchase anyone else’s salvation or sanctification. Parents with unbelieving children, friends with children in jail, the discoveries of the geneticists, and the faith heroes in Hebrews 11 are all powerful reminders of this truth: We will parent imperfectly, our children will make their own choices, and God will mysteriously and wondrously use it all to advance his kingdom . . .
. . . Parenting, like all tasks under the sun, is intended as an endeavor of love, risk, perseverance, and, above all, faith. It is faith rather than formula, grace rather than guarantees, steadfastness rather than success that bridges the gap between our own parenting efforts, and what, by God’s grace, our children grow up to become.
If you’re like me, you are sometimes anxious about parenting. This article, “The Myth of the Perfect Parent” is a comfort, not because it releases us from the responsibility of parenting, but because it preaches the gospel of grace as the resource for responsible parenting. I encourage you to read the entire piece.