Wednesday, November 11, 2015

31Days - Messing Up My Kids

I started to offer up the prayer request in our Sunday School class. It was a simple request, really. But as I started to explain why I was worried, my voice broke and the tears gathered at the corners of my eyes. It surprised me. I hate displaying emotion (yeah, working on that, see Day 19: I am afraid of revealing my emotions.). I hadn't seen it coming. But as I'd started describing the problem, my culpability in it all had overwhelmed me. I was sending my daughter off to another state, to live off campus, on her own, where she knew no one. And I hadn't prepared her. She didn't know how to cook (other than wild game she'd killed, cleaned and fried); she had never had a lot of household responsibilities (I wanted my kids free to concentrate on schoolwork and still have time to be a kid); and she barely knew how to drive (didn't even have her license yet because I hadn't wanted to push her). I sat there that morning with tears gathering in my eyes and words stuck in my throat because I knew I hadn't prepared her for life on her own. I'd messed up. I'd failed my child.

There are other regrets that I have as a parent. We haven't eaten around a dinner table (in our home, anyway) in over four years. We didn't do it often enough before we moved, but after the move to the small lake cottage, definitely not. We've never really had family devotions. I tried once or twice, but it never really stuck. I wasn't the parent that had long talks with her kids after school – drawing them out and getting them to talk about their days. Sometimes I disciplined with anger and frustration. Sometimes I looked the other way because it was easier. I was there for every soccer game, but I was never the parent who visited the school lunch room on a regular basis or volunteered in the classroom. I had my own hang-ups that kept me from being one of "those" mothers... a better mother. I didn't really want to be around one of those mothers, either... because they'd just remind me how short I fell... all the things I wasn't doing right... all the ways I should be doing better... all the ways I was failing my children.

So my fear for Day Twenty-eight:

I am afraid of messing up my kids.

It's a real fear... with some valid reasons behind it. I'm not the perfect parent. I have messed up. And there are a lot of examples in the Bible of good guys who weren't so hot at fathering and had kids who tended to end up dead. (David and Eli are two that come to mind). That's comforting, right? Not. So there's some truth in the fear. But what's the real Truth? Truth with a capital T?

Well... let me introduce you to a guy named Ahaz:

Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do right in the sight of the LORD as David his father had done. But he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel; he also made molten images for the Baals. Moreover, he burned incense in the valley of Ben-hinnom and burned his sons in fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had driven out before the sons of Israel. He sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills and under every green tree.
(2 Chronicles 28:1-4)

Ahaz was probably the worst king of Judah. Previous kings fell short in one way or another (we all do, right?), but all the Bible has to say about Ahaz is that "he did not do right in the sight of the LORD." There's nothing good or redeeming about him ever mentioned. He'd had plenty of good examples: his own father, Jotham; his grandfather, Uzziah; and further back in the family tree, David. But instead of following those examples, he followed the ungodliness that the northern kingdom of Israel had embraced. All those sacrifices he made? They weren't to God. They were idol worship and pagan practices.

But it gets worse. Ahaz wasn't just a bad king, he was a pretty bad dad, too. Actually, that's a bit of an understatement. I think we could justifiably call him a horrible father. CPS would be having a fit. You see, Ahaz intentionally burned his sons in fire. Yes, I said intentionally. He worshiped the pagan god, Molech. Molech was worshiped by placing a metal statue representing him in the fire until it was red-hot. An infant was then placed on the glowing, outstretched hands of the statue (still in the fire). Please read that with the horror it deserves: the child was placed in the flames on the molten, red-hot, outstretched hands of an idol! The screams of the child were covered by beating drums until the child burned to death. Unfathomable. I. Just. Can't. Imagine. But Ahaz did that. In fact, he did it more than once – scripture says he burned his sons in the fire. Sons. Plural. There are no words.

So if you are afraid that you might be messing up your kids... I can pretty much guarantee you're nowhere near as bad a parent as Ahaz. I can't point to a verse that backs it up, but I believe that anyone who is actually worrying about the job they are doing as a parent is a parent who is headed in the right direction – they are at least concerned for the welfare of their child.

Not Ahaz. We're talking one twisted, messed-up dude. So...

Ahaz was not only one of the worst kings of Judah,
but also a horrible example of a father.

Now let's skip ahead just a little and let me introduce you to Hezekiah, another king of Judah:

Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old; and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. He did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done.
(2 Chronicles 29:1-2)

The chapter goes on to tell how he restored the house of the LORD and called the people away from idol worship back to God. This guy was a good guy.

The author of 2 Kings also speaks highly of Hezekiah:

He did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done. He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. For he clung to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him; wherever he went he prospered.
(2 Kings 18:3-7)

Did you catch that? "...after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him." No other king was like him. Not before. Not after. He was perhaps the most godly king, and was definitely the best reformer Judah had. No other king had the courage to forbid the pagan worship on the high places. Hezekiah did. He destroyed anything having to do with them. He clung to the LORD and didn't depart from Him.

Hezekiah did right in the sight of the LORD
and was one of the best kings of Judah.

So... who was this Hezekiah? The verse said he was David's son, right? Actually, that would be a "sort of, not really." David was his ancestor, but that was several generations back. Remember that really twisted, messed-up dude, Ahaz? Uh huh... Hezekiah was his son. So think about this: Hezekiah grew up knowing that his father burned his brothers to death in the fire to Molech. It's possible he even witnessed it. Can you imagine knowing your father tossed his kids – your brothers – into a fire and watched them burn to death? Wouldn't you think that would mess you up a bit? Can you imagine the sessions with his psychologist? But that's the kind of father Hezekiah had.

The most godly king and most active spiritual reformer of Judah...
was the son of an utterly depraved man!

How does that happen?

"Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit"' says the LORD of hosts.
(Zechariah 4:6)

... our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.
(Psalms 115:3)

God is in control.

It's that simple. God is capable of doing whatever He pleases. So as I think about the fear of messing up my kids, the real question becomes, "Do I truly believe that God is in control? Or do I believe that my mistakes can't be redeemed?" Don't just read over that sentence. Don't just give it lip service. Think about it: What do my fears say about my belief? Do I really believe that my mistakes are bigger than God? That He can't redeem my mistakes?

God gave Jeremiah the answer for that:

"Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?
(Jeremiah 32:27)

My mistakes are not too difficult for God to redeem.

Does that mean I can do anything I want and not worry about how it affects my kids (or anyone else, including myself)? Of course not. There's a balance. Granted, it's a tough one; one difficult to wrap our heads around:

Do I believe God is sovereign; in control; can do anything He wants; and is able to redeem any mistake I might make? Yes.

Do I believe my decisions and actions have consequences? Yes.


How can both be true? I have no idea. I think it's one of those things we just can't understand. But then, if we were able to understand God in total, He wouldn't really be much of a God.

Paul tells us, though:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7)

We are to pray instead of worry!

Here's the interesting thing: the word translated "anxious" in this verse is the same one Paul uses in Phil 2:19-20 as he commends Timothy for his concern for the Philippians. Yet here, using the same Greek word, Paul tells us not to be concerned, but to pray. Contradictory? Not exactly.

Paul commends concern for others – just as I am sure he would commend our concern and care for our children. God gives us guidelines on raising our children because we are responsible for them – we are to care for, guide, and do our best to raise them according to God's instructions and plans. We know that God calls us to do our best in all circumstances (Colossians 3:23). So I am not advocating throwing up our hands and saying, "Whatever will be, will be!"

What Paul is warning against is a concern that becomes fearful and distressing. Paul is not saying "Don't worry, be happy!" He is saying, "Your care for one another is good, but don't forget that the LORD God is in control of it all." We do have responsibility. And yet at the same time He is sovereign; we are not. It's not all on us. He's got it. Pray about it instead of stewing about it!

Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.
(Psalms 37:5-6)

And remember... all those verses we claim for ourselves about how God has chosen us; loved us; sacrificed for us? All those verses about how He will speak to us and guide us? They apply to our children too. Just like us, they have their own choices to make. We can't make their decisions for them. But God loves them and will be there for them!

By the way – the kid I was worried about in the first paragraph? She's blooming beautifully right where she's at – way beyond what I could have ever imagined.

Father God, this adulting is hard. I don't feel responsible enough to handle my own life at times, let alone responsible enough to guide and direct my children. I know I've made mistakes. I know I will continue to make mistakes. I hate that. I hate thinking that I didn't cuddle them enough or wasn't consistent enough or didn't listen enough. But God, You are there holding and loving them. You are constant. You hear their thoughts before they ever are formed. Nothing is too difficult for You. Where I've failed them, You can heal them. Where my instruction is lacking, Yours is perfect. Give me strength and courage, wisdom and compassion to be a better parent. But thank You for loving them perfectly when my love is so imperfect. Abba, Father... thank You for being such a good, good Father.

Fear: I am afraid of messing up my kids.


  • Ahaz was not only one of the worst kings of Judah, but also a horrible example of a father. (2 Chronicles 28:1-4)
  • Hezekiah did right in the sight of the LORD and was one of the best kings of Judah. (2 Chronicles 29:1-2; 2 Kings 18:3-7)
  • The most godly king and most active spiritual reformer of Judah... was the son of an utterly depraved man!
  • God is in control. (Zechariah 4:6; Psalms 115:3)
  • My mistakes are not too difficult for God to redeem! (Jeremiah 32:27)
  • We are to pray instead of worry. (Philippians 4:6-7)


Note: This post is part of a 31-day writing challenge. Click here to see the rest of the posts on my 31 Days of Fear (and Truth).

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