Every parent has had that moment when he is overwhelmed with the excitement of being a parent. When the doctor made the announcement—“You’re going to have a baby!”—many of us were overcome with shock. I’m going to be a what?? Some of were terrified at the prospect of the responsibility, extra bills, and attendance at ballet recitals. Others among us were ecstatic from the first moment we heard the doctor’s news.
If the excitement hadn’t arrived yet, it certainly came the moment a nurse placed that tiny bundle of humanity in your hands. In that moment you likely joined the rest of us as we squelched our fears and said:
“I’m going to be the best dad/mom. Ever.”
And then reality set in.
Let’s be frank. You’re not that parent. In spite of your best intentions and efforts, you’ve blown it along the way. You’re not alone. Residing in each of us is a sin nature that pushes against our best intentions. “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Rom. 7:18).
We may have started off on the right foot as parents, but we quickly failed. And the failures piled up.
- We broke promises.
- We were absent from their lives way too much.
- We got angry.
- We were too lenient when it came to ______________.
- We were too strict when it came to ______________.
Let me assure you your story is not complete. You’ve made mistakes—you’ve had failures—as a parent, but you are not a failure. To dismiss yourself as a failure is to dismiss the ability of God to work in your life. And to dismiss yourself as a failure is to dismiss the power of God to work in your child’s life in spite of your mistakes.
How do we climb out of our failure as a parent?
Forgiveness. That’s it. To climb out of your failure, you need to seek forgiveness from three people
- Your child. You blew it. No matter how minor it seemed—or how grievous— you need to apologize to your child. However you phrase it, make sure your child clearly hears these words:
- “I did _____________.” Be specific about what you did.
- “I was wrong to do that.”
- “Will you forgive me?
- “I love you.”
I can’t stress enough the importance of your words. My sons are in their early 30s and on the most recent Father’s Day, we talked over lunch about some of our favorite father-son memories. I expected to talk about trips I took with them individually, campouts when Mom chose to stay home, and, well, guy stuff. We did talk about many of those events, but then my youngest son said, “Dad, I remember you were always willing to apologize when you got angry. I’m sure what we did deserved it, but you’d still apologize for getting angry.”
- God. Any sin we commit is ultimately a sin against God. When David sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Sam. 11), he made this confession to God: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Ps. 51:4). David was not denying his actions against Bathsheba and Uriah, but his sin was first and foremost against his creator.
It’s true for you too. Your mistakes and sins against your child are also sins against God. The beauty of God is that, even though we fail Him, He doesn’t want us to fail. He waits to forgive us. He wants to restore us. We have this promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
How serious is God about desiring to forgive you? Look at the cross. Jesus willingly took upon Himself the punishment and death we deserve. He went all the way to the cross to prove His love and the depth of His forgiveness.
God forgives. Believe it. Accept it. Relish in it. And come to Him in confession.
- Yourself. The hardest thing to do is forgive ourselves. This explains why we have a hard time believing that God forgives. We can’t forgive ourselves for what we said, so why should we expect God to?
Remember, there is nothing you must do to earn God’s forgiveness and freedom from your sin. He offers it freely to those who come with a repentant heart. God requires no acts of penance; He only calls for words of penance: “God, I’m sorry. I turn from my sin and I turn to You. Please forgive me.”
And with that, Christ forgives. Now extend the same grace to yourself that the sovereign King of the universe extends to you.
Your story is not finished yet. And neither is your child’s.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect” (1 Cor. 15:10).
Adapted from the book Removing Doubt: How to Overcome Failure and Failure as a Dad. The book is available at Manhood Journey.
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