Parenting When The System Crashes

There are a lot of things that parents can’t do and that’s the really scary part of our job.

Parents can do a lot. Sometimes they can make us think that they have superhuman powers. That’s how I look at my mom. She somehow managed to raise two kids as a single-parent with minimal financial resources and significant health problems. My mom’s been gone for well over ten years now but her parenting superpowers seem to grow stronger in my mind each day.

But there are a lot of things that parents can’t do.

And that’s the scary part of parenting.

We get some degree of comfort from thinking that if we just do the right things as parents then our kids will turn out safe and well-adjusted. It’s the old garbage in, garbage out saying come to life. But there are a couple of problems with that analogy.

First, our kids aren’t computers. We do everything we can to make sure that they get the right education and hang around the right friends but sometimes the end result isn’t that good. Or at least it’s not the kind of good that we wanted.

Another problem is that no parent is perfect. Yes, even that mommy who makes her own bread, competes in the CrossFit Games, homeschools, and has started a non-profit that sends blankets made of free-range unicorn fur to a forgotten people group in northeast Antartica isn’t perfect. Her Instagram account might tell you that she’s perfect but she isn’t. All that to say that there are times when even the best parents put garbage into their kids. We make wrong decisions. We say hurtful things. We don’t show up when we say we will.

But there’s good news.

God is in the business of redeeming the mistakes of flawed parents like you and me.

Still, we cherish order. We like to believe that every test score will be above average. We long for perfect health for our children. We want the best colleges falling all over themselves to give our kids full rides.

Inevitably something happens. Your nine-year-old has the audacity to get the score of a nine-year-old instead of a twelfth grader on his standardized test. The ball goes two inches to the left instead of where it was supposed to go. Sickness ravages an otherwise healthy adolescent body.

It’s often when these wrenches get thrown into our parenting systems that we really begin to see the beauty and the importance of the job that we have been given. It is in our confrontations with our limitations that we see the greatest parenting superpower of them all.

We can’t take the test for our son. He’s the one who has to sit in that room with his number two pencil, a head full of knowledge, and a heart full of worry.

We can’t get the operation for our daughter. We can walk next to her on her way down to the OR but eventually the doctors turn to us and say, “We’ll take her from here.”

We are not in the IT department. IT guys, at least the good ones, are there when you need them. They have all of the right answers. They know exactly when something needs to be done. They know how to take out the garbage that was put in.

Parents are more like farmers. Farmers till the ground. Farmers plant the seeds. Farmers water the plants. Farmers do everything that they can to produce fruits and vegetables. But everything that they can is not enough.

Parents are like farmers because there comes a point when their work is done and the results are out of their hands. But there’s more good news. Those results aren’t left in the hands of fate or statistics but a loving God who has rigged the system for the good of his people (Romans 8:18-39).

The greatest superpower that a parent can have is trust in that God.

Systems crash because no system is foolproof.

Parents fail because no parent is perfect.

Plans go sideways because we live in a fallen world.

But over it all, God is working for the good of those who, by his grace, have submitted to his sovereign rule through faith and repentance.

So mom and dad, don’t sweat the fact that your kid didn’t get a scholarship to the school of her dreams. Don’t stress over him not making the elite travel team. And hang on through her sickness that threw your plans into a blender.

Because it is in these moments, these collisions between your agenda and your limitations, that you are more prone to see both the real power and joy of parenting.

One more piece of good news for you.

Your kids don’t need you to be perfect. They don’t need to grow up thinking that you have superpowers. What they could really use is an example of how to act when the system crashes.

And there is no better example for them than their imperfect parents whose eyes are locked in on their perfect Master.

O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 2 Chronicles 20:12 (ESV)

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jaywestfall
jaywestfall

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.