This article, “The Myth of the Perfect Parent: Why the Best Parenting Techniques Don’t Produce Christian Children” by Leslie Leyland Fields, Christianity Today (January 8, 2010), is perhaps the most profound article on parenting that I’ve ever read. It is straight-forward, convicting, and true. I hope that every parent at Sojourn can read and re-read it. Here is one of the best sections:
“Whether they listen or fail to listen … they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Ezekiel 2:5).
This was Ezekiel’s responsibility: to speak and embody God’s words before the people in such a way that they might know who he was, a righteous prophet of God, and that they might know who God was. Ezekiel wanted more than this, of course. He desperately wanted to turn the people back to the living God and prevent the impending and appalling judgment and death. The record does not tell us if anyone repented as a result of his words, but Ezekiel was never accountable for the repentance of others. He was accountable only for his steadfast obedience.
It is likely that we are asking the wrong questions as parents. We are so focused on ourselves—on our own need for success and the success of our children—that we have come to view parenting as a performance or a test. It appears we are failing the test, as large numbers of our youth leave the church when they leave our nests. And now genetic research tells us the test may even be rigged.
We cannot pass this test, I’m afraid, nor could we ever. If we are graded on a curve, we will always find parents and children who are more obedient, more joyful, and more peaceful than we are. We will find parents whose children turned out better than ours, parents with a higher percentage of “spiritual champions” than we can claim for our efforts.
If we are graded instead on an absolute scale—as I believe we are—we fail even more miserably. But this is why a Savior was provided, and gifted to us through grace, through faith—”and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). If even our ability to believe in God is given to us by God, then how much of parenting can we perform on our own? We must proceed, then, on our knees first, beggars before the throne, if we are to parent well.