Do My Sins Cause My Child’s Suffering?

We’re not perfect parents—none of us. I’ve made some massive mistakes in the last sixteen years. Some of my mistakes were…

  • accidental, because I wasn’t paying attention to the right things.
  • ignorant, because sometimes I just didn’t know the right thing to do.
  • sinful, because I was being selfish or prideful.

Some of my mistakes were the type I could correct later. But for some of those mistakes, the only thing I could do was ask forgiveness.

Sometimes Satan slips his hand inside the memories of my parenting mistakes as if they were puppets. Then he raises their ugly heads toward me at the worst times, crushing my confidence and/or piling on the guilt.

I know I’m not alone. My friend and her son are in a difficult situation. He’s struggling, and she’s hurting. She said, “I hurt because I know some of the things I did were wrong.”

Me too, friend. Me too. And now it seems my children suffer because of my wrongs.

The same day she said those words to me, I read the beginning of John 9.

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  –John 9:2-3

I’ve written about this Gospel scene before. But this time, I thought of myself in the parents’ role: always wondering if I had done something to cause the son’s blindness. In the same way, I wonder if my actions and decisions over the past sixteen years have caused some of the struggles my kids have now.

Read the Scriptures carefully here. Jesus isn’t saying those parents never sinned. He’s saying their sin didn’t cause their son’s blindness. Think about the relief that unnamed mom and dad must have felt when their son walked in, looked at them, and told them about Jesus!

There are some parental sins that do affect our children (e.g. negligence, substance abuse), and in a sense, every decision we make—good and bad— affects those around us. If you’re reading this blog, however, you’re trying to be a good parent. You’re working on Intentional Parenting. I’m talking to you, to us, who would never intentionally harm our children.

Yet we still throw those regrets up in the air like confetti.

“If I hadn’t done this…”

“If I’d just noticed that thing earlier…”

“If I’d made a different choice when they were younger…”

I imagine the blind man’s parents racked their brains for what sin they had committed to cause their son’s suffering. Or maybe they thought they knew. And maybe they had to live with the walking, talking reminder and the regret every day.

Here’s what we all need to know, need to claim, need to grab tightly when those bad parenting memories rear their ugly heads in the face of our children’s struggles:

It is not God’s pattern to punish us through our children. Instead, God’s pattern is to redeem every situation for His glory. Our children’s problems, whether caused by us or not, create avenues for the works of God to be displayed in them.

How beautiful is this!!

Let go of the guilt. Let go of the self-doubt. Let go of the repetitive beating-yourself-up. Toss that guilt confetti in the air one last time and let the breath of God blow it away!

Joseph told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).  –the accidental mistakes

Paul declared, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). –the ignorant mistakes

Through Joel, God told the once-rebellious Israelites, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25). –the sinful mistakes

Here’s what I’m telling myself these days:

I’m going to do the best parenting job I can, leaning heavily on the Holy Spirit along the way. Yes, I’ve messed up. Yes, I’ve failed. But…

  • Not every problem my children face is the result of my failures.
  • Not every problem is necessarily the result of poor decision-making in my parenting.
  • None of their problems are designed to destroy me…or them.

“Who sinned?” the disciples asked. Well, we all did, but that’s not why our children suffer. Now let’s back off and let Jesus display the “works of God” in our children’s lives and our own, just like He did for the blind man.

Feel like your parenting mistakes have created problems in your kids’ lives? Know this: It’s not God’s pattern to punish parents through their children. #IntentionalParenting #GodsGlory via @Carole_Sparks (click to tweet)

I want to hear what you think about this. There was so much more I could write, so push in to those parts of the post that intrigue you and let me know what the Lord reveals. Or encourage us all with a short story of how God has used a parenting “fail” for good. I would love to hear it!

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The Glory in the Gory

Just one letter separates gory from glory. Okay, maybe that’s a coincidence, but we certainly don’t often see these words together. Today, I want to throw them both into the parenting mix.

I had a three-year-old and a six-month-old. It was winter. Need I say more? If you’ve been there, you know what my life was like: lonely, exhausting, thankless…and one day looked just like the next. There were fantastic, joyful, never-forget-til-the-day-I-die moments, but at the time, the difficult days loomed so much larger than the delightful days.  If you’re there now, this post is for you. I considered it a good week if I spent a little time in the Word at some point every day (often mid-afternoon while one napped and the other watched an Elmo video) and made it to church on Sunday.

I remember scoffing as I read verses like these:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Philippians 4:4

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 (Find more about these verses *here*.)

Go back with me to one of those days…

Really? Give thanks for the explodopoop that I must now clean off my child, his changing table, the wall and my clothes—not just my child’s clothes?  Oh, and did I mention that I’m all by myself here?!? Obviously, Paul was not a mother to two (or more) preschoolers! Ten years later, I still remember standing there, looking at that mess, and pondering the meaning of life:

  • Did I really get a master’s degree so I could do this?
  • In what way, Lord, are you honored here? Because I think I’m about to puke.
  • What am I doing wrong? (Thinking poop wasn’t actually supposed to explode out of a person no matter how small that person was.)
  • Is it really your will, Lord, for me to thank you for poop?
  • Do I have even one t-shirt without some sort of baby stain on it? (So some of my thoughts weren’t very profound. Give me a break—I was sleep-deprived!)

The answers didn’t come right away. I didn’t have an epiphany. There was no light shining through the window carrying an angel who made me a better mom. But eventually, I came to understand it like this…

Thank Him for the spiritual training and for recognizable blessings.

Even when your days are occupied by dirty diapers and mashed-peas (which, let’s be honest, don’t look dissimilar), it is possible to find things for which you are thankful. Look back at 1 Thessalonians 5:18. It says, “give thanks in all circumstances” not “for all circumstances.”

If I can’t thank Him for the poop; at least I can thank Him through the poop.

  • Thank you, God, that my child’s digestive system works.
  • Thank you that I am learning to be a servant who doesn’t expect recognition.
  • Thank you that I can take my child to a licensed doctor whenever I think something is wrong with him.
  • Thank you that I am learning empathy for other moms—oh, so much empathy!
  • Thank you that my schedule allows time to clean this up right now, then sit with one or both of my children and wrap my arms around them so they know how much I love them.
  • Thank you for finding me worthy to steward the life of a whole person. (This one’s a biggy.)

Choose to praise Him in the middle of the goriest parenting tasks.

After God changed my thinking regarding dirty diapers, I started singing praise songs while I changed diapers. The song calmed me and my child, but more importantly, it kept my mind focused on God my Savior.

Know that the primary discipling relationship of your life lies on that changing table.

It may not feel like it in the moment, but even now, you are leading your child into Christ-likeness through your actions and words. There is value—even in changing diapers.

These meager, mundane moments are not inconsequential. Not only do you have the chance to glorify God, but He continues to pursue your spiritual growth. Yes, even now…perhaps especially now. Don’t miss this chance!

 “We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn’t set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in ten thousand little moments of everyday life. It’s the themes of struggles that emerge from those little moments that reveal what’s really going on in our hearts.”  –Paul David Tripp, Whiter Than Snow.

 

“It’s one thing to go through a crisis grandly, yet quite another to go through every day glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight, and no one paying attention to us.” –Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, 11/16.

 
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