As a Christian father who desires to raise my children in the fear and admonition of the Lord I have often been overcome with a great sense of failure. This comes not simply from the actions of my own children and whether they are obedient to my teachings and guidance but from the immensely overwhelming blogs, articles, posts, tweets, etc. of other Christian parents and parachurch ministries that seem almost spotless in their efforts and teachings. While I know they are certainly not perfect, many of their posts can appear as such causing some to think they are woefully short of what other "faithful" parents are doing or what such ministries command them to.
I have found that this can serve to over-encourage a parent to the point of becoming weary from attempting to remain diligent in their faithfulness to the Lord and to the discipling of their children. This leads to not only discouragement but disillusion in the home.
This involves two elements that when combined together create the explosion that is toxic for fathers and mothers alike. The first element comes along as the unintentional assertion to achieve an impossible level of sanctified discipleship at the sole effort of the parents. I love reading soundly biblical authors who exegete Scripture and provide practical application of the text. Many of these brothers and sisters constantly remind their readers that they too are sinners saved by grace and fall short of what they know if complete obedience to Christ. They provide the most honest encouragement by revealing their own struggles within themselves and in their homes. It is those who set a high bar and are not openly honest to their own struggles that paint a picture of perfected sanctification in their homes. This can cause the reader or hearer of such a message to grow weary believing that their efforts fall short, not of the biblical model but of the model of the make-believe fully sanctified and glorified family that does not actually exist. While these proponents may intend to encourage the fathers and mothers of homes to biblical standards, without open honesty of their own shortcomings and continual struggles, they inadvertently turn their encouragement into discouragement as some parents are left thinking they will never attain to that model of the perfect family.
The second element in this combination takes place more in the trenches of biblical parenting in regards to how Christian parents treat other Christian parents. This particular ingredient must be preceded by the other and is the most painful for the struggling parent. Instead of love and exhortation some parents overly criticize other parents for not holding to the pristine model of the smiling family on the cover of the latest parenting book in their local Christian bookstore. What they miss are the struggles of those parents trying to not only raise their children but actually DISCIPLE them to Christ. They miss the fact that God designs each of us uniquely, with personalities and preferences unlike any other. Public schools fail to realize this by modeling an educational standard that only fits one personality type and educational model. Those of us who homeschool rightly criticize such an approach yet we are the one who are almost always guilty of applying the same within our own circles of fellowship. The energetic child is thus expected to fit into the same mold of outward obedience as the introverted child and are not discipled individually based on how God has designed and personalized them. Children should display obedience to their parents (Exodus 20:12; Proverbs 1:8,9) but to suggest that such obedience must be tangibly as apparent every second and exactly the same in every child is to be dishonest regarding the reality of our sin nature and the depravity of all mankind. For a while, I believed that I was the only one who saw this particularly in regard to the this second element, but another blog showed me that I am not.
Believe it or not, your child will never be like my child and my child will never be like the child of those parents over there. Our children have unique skills, weaknesses, and strengths. They should be treated as such!
Is there a perfect Christian home out there that is continually obedient to the commands of Scripture in every area of their walk? Are the parents sanctified in all areas of their lives with a glimmering and unwavering plan for their families laid out in perfect order? None of us would dare say yes...but then why do many of us act like those who do fall short of this are to be treated as heathen and distanced from rather than brought closer to us? What should be the most encouraging of areas in Christian living has often proven to be the most discouraging, critical and, unloving.
Make no mistake, this in no way gives allowance to the slothful father or unfaithful mother who choose to misuse grace for sinful laziness (Romans 6:1-3). Those who willfully and regularly act in disobedience to the commands of Scripture in any area of their life and refuse to repent when such sin is exposed do not fall into this category to which I speak. Such should be lovingly but boldly approached in their disobedience and admonished to repent.
But for the Christian parents whose heart breaks for their children, who desire to see all of their children come to repentance and faith in Christ and live lives to glorify Him, to these parents may I offer a single word of encouragement straight from the sufficient Word of God: "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9, ESV) or as Paul restates such in 2 Thessalonians 3:13 "As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good". Do not grow weary brothers and sisters! Let us remain faithful, knowing that none of our children are perfect in their obedience and that we are never perfect in our parenting. God will bring forth the fruit in due time. Let us rely on Him and His grace in our parenting as we should in every area of our lives.
And to the local church: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:24-25). Bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2) in times of trial and struggle and do not simply pack up and leave just because the families around you are not the perfected model others deceptively portray. Part of being a church is to actually be the church by displaying the loving attributes outlines in Scripture. If you wish to find a perfect church filled with perfect children guided by perfect families, you will certainly be searching until Christ calls you home. Charles Spurgeon once said "If you wait for a perfect church, you must wait until you get to heaven; and even if you could find a perfect church on earth, I am sure they would not admit you to their fellowship, for you yourself are not perfect."
Let us never be found guilty of portraying ourselves or others as perfectly sanctified in the discipling of our children. Let us instead strengthen our bounds of unity in our churches, that they may be places of prayer and biblical exhortation.
For the glory of the risen Lord,