Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Faith in Parenting

Kat is hosting the topic of faith in parenting this week for Parenting University blog project. Here's my submission:

Maybe you, like me, have heard and believed the expression

Love the sinner, hate the sin.

Today I came to the conclusion that this is not a biblical statement. How? Through the difficult work of parenting one of my sons.

Last night this son managed to expose my last nerve and jump repeatedly on it. I found myself talking at him, lecturing really, while he shut down and shut me out. Sullen. Arms bound tightly around his knees. Sour expression on a hardened face. Everything about him screamed, "I'm not listening!" except his voice.

This morning he woke up and greeted me with his arms flung wide, a huge delightful grin on his face, and exclaimed "Mommy!" In this magnanimous gesture, he was testing if the storm had passed between us. We embraced in a giant bear hug.

His polar actions got me thinking about the rock wall I'd hit in him last evening. He has a particular weaknesses which I'd like to see gone, and I hammered hard like he was made of some kind of stone. "It's so easy to tell the whole truth! It's not like in this family you are mistreated if you make a mistake. We have grace! So, why, oh why, do you keep this up? The truth is easy. Furthermore, why do you take things so far with your brothers. You stir up trouble and act surprised when discontentment comes flying back at you! Why don't you get it?", I demanded. How ironic that I'd insisted so passionately when I know deep in my heart this boy struggles terribly with impulsivity and self protection. Obviously, I was stomping about on my moral high horse on moral high ground.

Problem is that love doesn't work that way. I asked this child point blank this morning if he believed he could be deeply loved by me, and more so by God, when he lies? He painfully answered, "No. I don't deserve it. I try and try to be good, but I always fail. I don't know what to do." Doesn't that break your heart? He felt helpless. He'd internalized my anger and judgment of his sin as directed to core of his person, because I was picking on his weaknesses. If I couldn't somehow manage to rebuke my son without him feeling attacked, then I certainly wasn't "hating the sin and loving the sinner". I realized that if can't accomplish this statement with my own beloved son, then why did I think I could do so with anyone else on the planet?

I've decided the saying should go like this instead:

Love the sinner. Hate my own sin.

That's much more like the Gospel. My propensity to lecture a child utterly mocks me. In fact, it reveals my own pitiful weakness of controlling behavior and judgment.

Mulling this over has given me new depth to understand Paul's words in Roman 6:15:
"For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I Am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate."

This morning I spoke to my son about Paul's words. The Great Apostle Paul failed again and again. Next,I shared my own entrenched weaknesses. I laid out my choices. I could shut whom I chose out, believing myself to be a good person. Of course, I'd be forced to work diligently to hide or justify my own sin if I made that choice. Or I could take another route entirely in which I'd humbly admit my shortcomings and the hurt which they cause yet know that I am still deeply loved by God.

In this new conversation, I watched my boy come full circle from "I don't deserve love" to "I am incredibly loved by God."

Deeper still, I asked my son if we both could try to embrace the unlovable parts of ourselves and promise to remain open to God's love when we feel like closing the door on others.

As parents, we are the keepers of the faith until the child learns to have faith for himself. Yesterday I failed. Today I've gained astounding faith for myself and my child.


brickmomma said...

Thanks for your honesty.

That is a huge lesson and I am glad you shared it. What an impact your are having.....keep it up!

The Secret Life of Kat said...

I needed to hear that. Thanks for sharing your wisdom...

truevyne said...

Dear Brick and Kat,
I'm struggling myself obviously. Prayers for us all.

Kristin said...

that is an inspiring story.