I, like most parents, can remember the exact moment and place where I found out I was going to be a father for the first time. It was Mother’s Day morning in 2008. The downstairs of our home makes a circle around the stairs and when my wife, Suzanne, came out of our bedroom calling my name, I walked around to go see her. After a few moments of walking back and forth to see which way she went, we met by the front door. She was in tears and holding something in her hand…a pregnancy test. While I was not in the best place spiritually, I’m happy to say that the first two thoughts that went through my mind were both prayers.
The first was a prayer simple prayer for me that I think just about every parent has prayed…
“God, please don’t let me mess this up!”
The second was a prayer specifically for my child, and it became the prayer for my two children that followed…
“God, please let this kid be better than me.”
Now, I knew that I had failures and shortcomings that would not be beneficial for a child to learn. We found out we were going to have a son and I knew this kid was going to end up being just like me. I wanted something better for him. I wanted him to be smarter, more patient, more kind, more loving, more determined, and more confident than I was. I wanted him to have all of the good (if there was any) and none of the bad (which there was plenty) in me. This was obviously an outrageous expectation to have. There was no escape for him. For better or worse, he was going to be shaped and molded by the good and the bad in his parents. It would still take few more years before I would awaken from my spiritual slumber and seriously begin pursuing Christ, but what I have learned in the years since that moment is that my failures and shortcomings have not disappeared.
I’ve improved on some.
I’ve gotten worse at others.
Some are gone completely.
Some new ones have sprung up.
With my focus solely on all the ways I would fail, I missed the fact that I had the chance to teach him something great, something the world won’t teach him…repentance. Dads, we have to realize that we will not stop falling short of the glory of God here on earth. But we can show our kids what it looks like to fall short, to stumble, but then do something that they won’t see much of in the world…confess that we have fallen short. Acknowledge that we messed up. Let your children hear their father ask God and them for forgiveness.
If there was ever a burden that I would wish to take off my children’s shoulders it would be the pressure to be seen as having it all together. I recently heard a gentleman in my church say that his father once told him “The only time I was ever wrong is when I thought I was wrong.” What a soul-crushing standard to put on our children. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and are in need of repentance. Yet somehow along the way we developed this strange disorder were we won’t let anyone see us get knocked down. We don’t share our struggle and trials with those around us. We say things like “keep your gloves up” and “fake it til you make it”. What if you let your kids see you put your gloves down? See you confess your fakeness? See you weep over your sin? See you ask for help?
While this is the greatest lesson that we can teach our children, we too often lack the courage to do it. For the sake of our children’s souls, let us lay down our pride and facades and let our children see a man after God’s own heart. Listen, you will not parent perfectly. You will fail, but don’t sweep failures under the rug and hope they forget about it. Your children will learn about how to handle sin and repentance by the way you handle sin and repentance. Teach your kids how to fail well. Teach them how to handle failure. Teach them what it looks like to confess and repent. Teach them why we do it. Teach them about the amazing love of Christ and how He is always there to offer forgiveness and reconciliation. Teach them about how Jesus paid for every single sin, even the one at that very moment, when He died on the cross. Teach them to look forward to the day were we will be with Jesus and we won’t sin anymore.
Haven’t done a great job at this? Me neither. But that’s the beauty of repentance. If we are still breathing, then there is still time…