There comes a time in every Christian parent’s journey of raising children, where we have a revelation. A loud voice booms suddenly inside our heads, shaking us to our very souls: “What if I’m not good enough for my kids?” Or more specifically, “What if my parenting isn’t good enough to save them?”
No? Just me then? Cool.
I have several older women around me who are in the throes of a spectrum of prodigal children. It’s heartbreaking. And as a mother of smallish (9 & 5) children, frankly it terrifies me. For a long time, I nit-picked the parents of these prodigal children, so I could find an answer to the problem and then just not do that. Seemed simple enough. Don’t make their mistakes, and do what they did well, only better. Then my children will turn out perfect. Mind you, this was all before I had children.
That plan faltered very quickly.
As most parents learn once they become parents, their “when I have kids” parenting plan is stupid. I was completely unprepared for my first child, and I remember thinking as I labored in the pains of childbirth, “Lord, I can’t do this.” And our child was properly named “Grace” after 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (ESV) And 9 years later, this verse has come true time and time again. Even in the best of my parenting, I’m still not enough to save my child, or even to be a good mom. I can’t do it on my own strength, I must do it with the strength and grace of Christ. And therefore, I pray.
I have spent more time in prayer for my oldest child than anything else in my life. It took several years for me to complete a picture of what I hoped for her future. I thought maybe marriage; maybe kids; maybe college and a good career; maybe she would find some cause she cared about and fight for that.
Then Jesus gave me the answer. Sitting in my car one night, after a long evening waiting tables, He told me: your goal for your child should be Me. Like a light bulb it dawned on me. And how relieving it was! What a weight off my shoulders to understand this! Psalm 37:4 gives a promise our children can cling to: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your Heart.”
Now, instead of worrying about American-dream desires for my daughters, I dream Jesus dreams for them. I pray they fall so in love with Him that they serve Him whole-heartedly for the rest of their lives. If that calls them to the mission field, I would be so proud, and thankful. If that calls them to forsake a college education and go feed starving children in Mexico, I would be so proud and thankful.
I don’t have to rely on myself to be a good parent. I won’t ever be enough to save my children. Only God can do that. So I pray, and I humble myself, and I rejoice at all the wonders He is going to do in them.
Ephesians 2:1-10: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived, in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Not even your own works!) [emphasis mine] “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
It’s so clear! We can’t do it, only God can. So prayerfully, if and when my children end up not only decent adults, but faithful followers of Jesus Christ, I can genuinely say, “That was all Jesus.”