Every conscientious parent knows that raising kids is hard. Early on in married life I knew this in my head. But after reading parenting books to prepare for the day God would bless us with children, I was somehow foolishly convinced I was ready to be the parent God wanted me to be.
When I did become a father, it soon became obvious I was not the perfect parent—far from it! It was not that I was the worst in the world, but I certainly wasn’t the best either. In short, I was just an average father. As a sinner saved by grace, I made terrible decisions and acted selfishly, frequently without even knowing it. But I also saw God’s mercy and goodness flowing out through me in surprising and unexpected ways.
In the end, God worked beautifully to mold and shape each of our three children in amazing ways I did not anticipate or imagine. Throughout the process He constantly demonstrated His unfailing love, unending patience, and unequalled wisdom.
Perhaps I wanted to be the perfect father so I could proudly exhibit my perfect kids to an imperfect world. But somewhere along the way, we all turned out to be normal people—flawed and glorious, talented and marred, wise and foolish, all at the same time.
While reflecting on my parenting, I was prompted to ask a different kind of question: What kind of father was God? He was, after all, not your average parent. He placed Adam and Eve in a perfect environment without peer pressure and without the burden of a sin nature. There, they enjoyed unbroken, unending fellowship with their perfect Father, and experienced unhindered mutual intimacy with each other. In addition, God gave them real responsibility and meaningful work to do in the garden, granting them tremendous freedom to eat freely from any tree in that garden save the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Regarding it, He only gave them one clear and simple command: “Do not eat its fruit.”
Amazingly, after all this, it wasn’t enough. They still chose to turn their backs on God! Perhaps we find this astounding in part because the world—and even some of our churches—keeps trying to convince us that if all the right conditions are put into place and if we approach parenting in just the right way, our children will turn out to be perfect.
It’s a lie.
With the world system working against the things of God, the temptations of the evil one, and the sin nature alive and active in every person on the face of the planet—our children and ourselves included—our parenting job is a good deal harder than many of us realize.
It’s not that we shouldn’t try to do the best job we can to raise our kids. It’s more that we desperately need the grace of God to do it, and ultimately our children—just like us—still have the maddening, glorious ability decide for themselves the direction they will take in life. And just like Adam and Eve, we are all accountable to God for our choices. Whether our children walk closely with the Lord or turn their backs on Him, we are not fully responsible for the decisions they make. If they choose wisely, we are protected from pride, and if they choose poorly, we can remember that even God, the perfect parent, knows well the heartbreak of seeing all of His children go astray—and He keeps on perfectly loving them anyway.