One dad told me he would never apologize to his kids. My heart sank. Our kids so often do what they have seen their parents do. What would the likelihood be of his kids recognizing that God desires a contrite heart more than a polished exterior?
Are we as parents willing to model confession? Are we willing to show our kids the value of a contrite heart?
King David coveted, committed adultery, lied, manipulated, murdered, and covered it up. We know people like him as shameful, disgraced, untrustworthy, controlling, imprisoned, and treacherous. The Bible declares him to be a man after God’s heart.
Let me say up front that grace based parenting is not an excusing approach to parenting. It is not a do-whatever-you-want-and-I’ll-always-overlook-it form of parenting. My wife and I, as we are praying for wisdom and learning the pragmatism of this approach, we still pronounce consequences and rebuke and interject and redirect. The people whom we have either read about or seen practicing grace based parenting do, as well. The difference is that we don’t do this expecting perfection. We do it hoping for confession.
It would be irresponsible for a shepherd to just let a sheep continue wandering toward the cliff or over by a wolf’s den. The good shepherd doesn’t do this. Rather, he wants the wandering sheep to be close to him. So, when the wandering sheep wanders, the shepherd goes to her to guide her closer. If she wanders again, he nudges her back. In the discernment of the shepherd, and it is different for each sheep, there may come a time when her legs need to be broken. If the shepherd does this, he then carried the sheep on his shoulders for the duration of her healing. The sheep learns walking again as she stumbles along near the shepherd, learning to listen to his voice rather than her own or the voice of any other besides the Shepherd. It is no guarantee that the sheep won’t wander again, but it is a demonstration of the guaranteed love of a near Shepherd.
So Jesus said again, “I assure you: I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. [This happens] because he is a hired man and doesn’t care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep.”
(John 10:7-15 HCSB)
We have a shepherd who deals with us in this gracious way. We need Him, especially as parents. He will not model for us a way of loving others that will lead to destruction. And He gives us the chance to learn how deep the Father’s love for us, how willing to lay down His life the Shepherd is, by giving us the chance to be a good shepherd to our own kids.
Who is the burden on? The one whose legs are broken when they wander or the one who carried the wanderer? It is the former, for he carried the weight both of an aching heart of love for the sheep as well as the weight of the sheep herself.
And this is the difficulty they call parenting.
Are we practicing parental apology or parental pride? Let me ask it another way. Are we letting our kids see the near grace and forgiveness and love of a Shepherd willing to carry even their mom and dad in the midst of their struggles to parent, or are we pretending that we know it all and they should, too?
Confessing to our kids when we have been wrong in our dealings with them is simply a way to show them our once-broken legs, to share with them the story of the Shepherd whom we need desperately and who desires us close and who carried us, too.
Just like He wants to carry them. Just like He wants our kids to know His voice.
Will we apply the same principles to mom and dad that we do to our kids? Will we parent from the gracious relationship we have with the Shepherd, or will we wander out alone.
Parenting is too hard to go alone.
May we be willing to confess to our kids when we have wronged them. May they see in us more than polished behavior. May they witness the beauty of a contrite heart as we confess our wrong and admit our desperate need. May they be reminded of the Gospel of Jesus in the very ways that they see us navigate our sinfulness.
He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 HCSB)
So if parenting involves seasons when we pursue our kids and even carry them, how can we do this for the long haul? Let’s look at this tomorrow…