Pastor's Wife, Mom, Writer & Imperfect Seeker of Jesus
Pastors' Wives--When Pastor's Kids Fail: Part 2
September 9, 2016
Let's just say that I’ve REALLY dreaded writing this post, as is obvious by the entire month in between Part 1 and Part 2 of this topic. Here’s why:
No one wants others to think poorly of their kids.
There are certain areas/stories of my children’s lives that are NOT mine to share, so it’s a fine line to walk when using their lives to teach.
Knowing human behavior, even if I DON’T share details, I realize that other peoples’ minds will be imagining what kind of activities my kids could have been involved in that I’m not sharing, which in turn takes me back to number 1.
BUT, I do believe that this is an important lesson for all parents, and especially for those of us in ministry who secretly expect our kids to be perfect.
If you haven’t read Part 1 of this topic, or it’s been so long you forget, please go ahead and click HERE to refresh your memory, as I will be piggy-backing off of some of my previous thoughts.
To begin with a clean slate, let me first make it clear that my daughters are not grown and out of the house yet, but they ARE both teenagers (almost 18 and 14 right now), so they definitely fall into that age of accountability that I talked about last time.
They are no longer at ages where I can keep them in a bubble and be with them every moment of every day. Nor would I want to do that to them. How can they fathom the true depth of God’s love and comfort for them if I have sheltered them from every negative or bad possibility in life? Jesus declared, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b NLT) Yes, as much as I hate it, that means that even MY kids will have trials and sorrows too. And some of them will be caused by their own choices, because, as stated last time, our God is a God Who is about choice.
The Lord understands our dilemma though. He feels our pain and struggle when we have to watch our kids fail. He suffered that same anguish for His chosen people Israel as they made poor decision after poor decision, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! She who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37 HCSB)
Sometimes we can do nothing (outside of prayer) but watch from a distance. But we DO keep watching. Take a few minutes and re-read the story of the Prodigal Son that Jesus shared in Luke 15:11-32. This is a passage that exploded with lessons and comfort for me during about a 15-18 month period that was very dark for our family.
First off, I truly do think my daughters are both great kids (most days). We have the typical mother-teenage daughter friction that seems to be a common occurrence in our country. Eyes do roll (please pray for them) and voices are raised. Talking back slips in and heavy sighing is often heard throughout the house. BUT they also both will randomly call me in the middle of the school day to share something exciting that happened in their lives. And when they are gone or Ryan and I are gone from home for an extended period, they even admit that they miss us.
I figure the father in Luke’s story might also have said that he had great sons. They probably had the typical father-son friction that occurred in that time period as well. But for whatever reason: pride, stubbornness, immaturity, influence of friends, etc., sometimes our sons or daughters decide to go a different direction in certain areas of their lives. They don’t make the choices we want them to make. They don’t feel about things the way we want them to feel. They don’t see the big picture the way we want them to see it.
The father had two sons, BOTH of whom made choices in a different direction than their father wanted for them. The younger son wanted his inheritance early so that he could have the funds to go and live his life the way he wanted to, away from his family. The older son wanted to harbor bitterness and unforgiveness towards his younger brother upon his return.
But only one of those sons did the father plead with about his choice, and it wasn’t the one I probably would have pled with.
In fact, when the younger son basically said, “I wish you were dead so that I could have my share,” the father liquidated enough of his estate to give this son his inheritance. Then he watched the son pack up all that he had and set off down the road, all too soon disappearing in the dust and the distance.
For years now, Ryan has been restating in our home the fact that there are only two real teachers in life: wisdom and consequence. If you refuse to learn from the one, you WILL learn from the other. Unfortunately, all of us have areas in our life when we refused to accept the wisdom offered to us and instead had to crash and burn in order to learn that particular lesson. And many of us have come out stronger on the other side.
It’s just SO hard to be on that other end of the equation—the parent end. And that’s where Ryan and I found ourselves. We had spent months offering advice, attempting to subtly reroute choices, even explaining the possible consequences in life for our daughter, but to no avail.
So with EXTREME, GUT-WRENCHING PAIN, we decided to follow the father’s example and allow her to walk away from us in this area of her life. We clung to the promise in Proverbs 22:6 to “train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (NASB) We had certainly attempted to pave the path to the narrow way all of their lives. We just prayed it would not take too long. But “old” is a relative term. I don’t think I’m old, but my kids do. And I have nieces and a nephew that think my teenage daughters are old.
So we waited for her to “come to her senses” as the younger son did. (vs. 17) She lived in our home, but there was a great chasm between us most days.
Thankfully, it was only about a year and a half, but eventually she found herself, like the younger brother, in pig slop so to speak. Eyes now open, and disgusted with her choices, she longed to “come home.” And like the father, we had been waiting and watching to run to her, clothe her in the love of our family and celebrate that she was found!
But that’s only part of Jesus’ story in Luke. It was the older son, so filled with anger and unforgiveness that the father came out and pleaded with. (vs. 28) This is often the more difficult part. The consequences of choices often fall on many others besides the one making the choice, especially in families. Even as parents, it is sometimes difficult to keep from constantly saying, “if only you had listened, if only you had made the right choice.”
Sometimes it’s hardest to forgive those who are closer to you, for the wounds cut deeper and the scars fade slower. But when THE Father reminds us to forgive, even pleads with us to forgive, it lays our own sin before our eyes and reminds us that we too are a sinner saved by grace.
I’m definitely NOT an expert on raising children, but I wanted to share with you my own journey in this area. I pray that we don’t have to go though a valley like this again with our daughters, but it just may happen again with one or both. If so, I will go back and drench myself in the story of the Prodigal Son.
So if you are still waiting for your Prodigal to come home, please don’t give up hope. And if you have gone through a valley with a child who has returned, but are having difficulty giving up the hurt it has caused, I encourage you to forgive and leave it as far as the east is from the west. Instead, as the father did, CELEBRATE!