I could tell from across the parking lot that she was upset. Her posture was slumped. Her head was down. She barely glanced up when I pulled the car up next to the curb–she just slowly walked to the passenger’s side and slid into the seat. No greeting departed from her trembling lips as the tears threatened to spill onto her cheeks. What’s wrong? I asked, expecting to hear about the latest girl drama.
But this was different. She began telling me the story of a mistake she had made. One little bad choice that was not such a huge deal, yet surprised me all the same. The tale poured out of her while her tears flowed faster, and I couldn’t even be upset with her because I know this feeling all too well–the feeling of deep conviction over sin. The heaviness of regret sitting on your chest like an anvil.
In my younger years, I might have put on a big show of disappointment. I might have spent the next thirty minutes lecturing her. I might have piled on her already troubled conscience. It is embarrassing, isn’t it, when your kids make mistakes? In some way it hurts your own pride when you realize once again that your child isn’t perfect, and many times in the past, I have shown my pride by thinking of myself and how her behavior reflects on me more than I thought about her and her spiritual state.
When you are parent, your faith must be wide and deep enough for the whole family to dive in. If you aren’t growing, if you aren’t gaining more perspective about how far you are from the holiness of God, if you aren’t spending time in His word where you learn again and again how much mercy and grace that it took to save you from yourself, then how will your faith ever be big enough for you to look on a child with grace instead of gall? With understanding instead of despair? How will you ever get past the position of just wanting your child to make you look good as a parent?
When parents grow in faith, children benefit. It doesn’t mean an end to punishments or consequences. It doesn’t mean letting kids run wild. It means seeing each imperfection in our children as fertile ground for growing spiritual truth. It means that even when we are shocked by some behavior that we never saw coming, we rely on the Lord for counsel instead of defaulting to our pride. And then we, as imperfect parents, can respond as disciple-makers instead of prideful dictators.
I sat there in the car, looking at my daughter’s tear-stained face, knowing that she will have many experiences like this in her lifetime. I patted her arm as we drove away and I wondered if she feels like there is room in my faith for her precious, imperfect self. She smiled wearily at me, and I loved her more deeply than ever.