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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Reflections on Sunday School Songs: Jesus Loves the Little Children

This must be one of the simplest children’s songs we sang in Sunday School when I was growing up. Bonus: it helped us learn our colors! Not that people are actually red or any of the other colors listed, but I’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s start at the beginning.

Jesus loves the little children

SS Songs - Jesus loves children
My first Bible (c) Carole Sparks

When you think of this song, you probably recall Jesus blessing some children. Maybe there was even a picture like this one in your children’s Bible or hanging in your church. That situation happens in Matthew 19:13-15 (also Mark 10:13-16 and Luke 18:15-17). It’s short, so let’s just read it here.

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

Why did the disciples rebuke (that means scold or correct) those parents? I can only think of one possibility: they thought Jesus had more important things to do. Maybe they were in a hurry, since the text says they left as soon as He finished blessing the kids. Or maybe the disciples just thought Jesus should focus on the grown-ups, the important people. Far more so than today, children in that culture had very little value. Luke says they were actually babies (Luke 18:15), who couldn’t even respond to Jesus.

But Jesus valued them. He stopped talking to the grown-ups; he delayed his trip a little. Why? So he could smile into their eyes, put his hand on their heads, and bless them. Would they even remember this moment? Only the older ones, but that didn’t matter to Jesus.

Yes, we must teach our children to respect their elders. Yes, we must teach them not to interrupt us constantly. Let’s be careful, though, not to imply by our actions that they are unimportant. Pay attention to the times you say “wait” and the times you divert your attention toward them. Make a conscious decision to train them in respect and/or patience at times or to reinforce their importance—their priority—in your life. This is the epitome of intentional parenting.

Personally, I hate to lose my train of thought (especially when I’m writing). I also hate to miss part of a good news story on NPR. So I confess that I react far more often that I respond thoughtfully, and I’m convicted by this children’s song. *Insert groan of frustration here.*

All the children of the world

Okay, get ready for more conviction. This one is tough.

“All” really means all: the impoverished kid in Africa with no diaper and no shoes, the refugee kid in Greece who will never return to his home, the child of a Muslim terrorist pressing his forehead to the mat in prayers this evening, the minority kid who needs ESL help in your child’s classroom. All these children matter just as much to God as your child. As parents, we’re hard-wired to protect and promote our own children above all others. But God wants the absolute very best for every child in the world. He wants it fiercely, as fiercely as you would fight for your own child!

I know we can’t personally rescue every child in a difficult situation, and I’m not suggesting we open an orphanage or move to the other side of the world. Really, what I know I need (and maybe you too), is an attitude adjustment. It’s so easy to insulate myself, to tie my understanding of God to what happens under my own roof, to think God’s priorities mirror mine. In that case, my kids would always get the best, even to the detriment of other children. The more we can see children (our own and others) with God’s eyes, the better balance we’ll have in this area.

I’m still working on it. If that was you and me near Jesus back in Matthew 19, you can bet I would have been elbowing you out of the way to get my children first in line for a Jesus moment. Pull out the cellphone cameras—this is way better than Santa! (Please infer the sarcasm I intended here.)

Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight

None of us are really comfortable with these words any more.  I found one alternative online that said, “Ev’ry color, ev’ry race, all are cover’d by His grace.” That’s pretty good.

At our house, we sometimes substitute the THUMB guide used to pray for world religions: Tribal, Hindu, Unreligious, Muslim, and the Buddhist. That also works.

I already covered the meaning here in the section above.

Jesus loves the little children of the world

The Lord…is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. –2 Peter 3:9

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. –John 3:16

The next time you hear or sing this song with your little ones, take time to really listen to the words and let God bring balance to your parenting perspective.

Want to share?

Use Jesus Loves the Little Children to bring balance to your parenting perspective. (click to tweet)

Fresh thoughts (for parents) on an old Sunday School song: Jesus Loves the Little Children (click to tweet)

Attribution: Words by C. Herbert Woolston, lyrics by George F. Root (according to this website)

I’ve written about Jesus and children in the past:

Previously in this series:

This Little Light of Mine

The B-I-B-L-E

Deep and Wide

Zacchaeus

Still to come:

  • I’ve Got the Joy, Joy…
  • Father Abraham
  • The Wise Man and the Foolish Man
  • My God is So Big

 

Reflections on Sunday School Songs: Zacchaeus

I once met a woman named Zachaea, and I shared this story with her in another language by simply translating the words to this song.

I don’t know why we think of it (Luke 19:1-10) as a children’s story. With “wee little,” my mind goes to leprechauns and elves, but Zacchaeus was simply a short man, not a mythical creature and not a child. What is more, his life experience was far beyond that of those who usually sing about him.

Read on to discover how this story-song speaks to parents (perhaps more profoundly than it speaks to their children) in the 21st century.

Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he.

Unimportant, overlooked, insignificant. That was Zacchaeus. Like a hobbit jumping to see over the shoulders of the race of men, he just didn’t measure up. Even worse, his occupation as a tax collector meant his own people despised him.

In the day-to-day, my life as a parent often feels inconsequential. It’s hard to keep focused on long-term parenting goals when every day feels the same (young kids) or you’re tired of driving all over the place (older kids). I can start to question my value to society. Then I catch myself saying, “I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”

Do you ever feel like a “wee little mama” (or papa), without much impact in the world? Take another look at Zacchaeus. (click to tweet)

He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.

07-18 pretty tree
Not sure this is a sycamore tree, but you get the idea. (c) Carole Sparks

Zacchaeus had to make an effort to get close to Jesus. Unlike those tall, respected guys who just wandered down and stood along the road, he had to get creative. I imagine he looked around for a solution until he saw the tree. He hesitated before he climbed it because, well, climbing trees is not something we adults do. Especially not in a robe. When’s the last time you climbed a tree? It’s not as easy as it was when we were kids! Ever done it in a skirt? No, me either, but I think it would be really hard. If I did climb a tree out in public somewhere, I can imagine that people would stare at me incredulously. Zacchaeus’ desire to be close to Jesus superseded everything: effort, difficulty, embarrassment…

A young mother told me recently that she tries to get up early and spend time in Scripture, but her toddler invariably starts crying before she can. Been there? Me, too. Remember those days before kids when you could sleep as long as you wanted, get up slowly, pour a cup of coffee, and sit down with your Bible for as long as you wanted? I think I vaguely recall something like that. Like Zacchaeus climbing the tree, spending time with Jesus takes more effort and creativity now. If we think it’s worth it, though, we find a way.

Here’s one idea that’s great for summer: audio Bible and a stroller. You can make notes on your phone. You can even pray out loud because people will think you’re talking to someone on the phone. (Bonus: exercise!) Sure, it takes some effort to get the kid strapped into the stroller and the diaper bag packed and the audio file or podcast set up. But it’s worth it.

As the Savior passed that way, He looked up in the tree, and he said, “Zacchaeus, you come down…

This is the best part of the story. Jesus could have changed directions or He could have ignored Zacchaeus. But He didn’t. He stopped and honored—not just acknowledged but honored—this overlooked, despised tax collector. I’m going to go out on a limb here (all pun intended!) and say Zacchaeus was pretty embarrassed to be discovered up in that tree. But Jesus didn’t care. He already knew Zacchaeus by name, and overlooking his ridiculous position in the tree, Jesus looked him in the eye.

When we make the effort to get close to Jesus, He knows exactly where and who we are, and He always responds. He will not overlook us. He will not ignore us. He will not laugh at us.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. –James 4:8a

For I’m going to your house today, for I’m going to your house today.

Jesus didn’t wait on Zacchaeus to invite Him. Jesus invited Himself into Zacchaeus’ house. It was a sign of respect that Jesus would eat with Zacchaeus—one that Zacchaeus probably didn’t think he deserved.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. –1 Samuel 16:7

Jesus wants to come into our homes today, with the piles of dirty laundry, the unswept floors, the clutter on the kitchen counter. Jesus wants to come into our lives, with the feelings of insignificance, the effort we make just to open our Bibles, the embarrassment of “putting ourselves out there” again and again.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. –Revelation 3:20

Dear parent, like we’ve considered this children’s song afresh, receive this news today as if it’s fresh. God knows where you are, and He knows who you are. He wants to join you in the middle of your parenting mess.

Parents: Like Zacchaeus, God knows where you are and who you are! (click to tweet)

Do you have a special memory or significant understanding of this song or story? Share it with us in the comments below!

Song Attribution: traditional

Previously in this series:

            This Little Light of Mine

            The B-I-B-L-E

            Deep and Wide

Still to come:

  •             Jesus Loves the Little Children
  •             I’ve Got the Joy, Joy…
  •             Father Abraham
  •             The Wise Man and the Foolish Man

Is there a children’s song you would like me to write about? Let me know in the comments.