"All the way...right away...with a good attitude...every day."
What an absolutely wretched paradigm for parenting.
Unless, of course, our aim is to create either perfectionistic, self-righteous little Pharisees, or defeated, self-loathing little prodigals.
This is NOT Christian parenting! This is gospel-denying, moralistic striving that engenders smug self-satisfaction in those inclined toward obedience and cynical disregard in those inclined toward rebellion. Neither of these are fruits of righteousness. Both are antithetical to living in the Good News that Jesus has rescued ALL of us from ourselves...the obedient and disobedient alike. BOTH need him because neither can save himself!!
I regret parenting under this paradigm. Even though I thought it was *right* at the time, I now see that underneath it was my own moralistic striving to prove myself worthy of the appellation "Christian parent." Make that GOOD...or better yet..."EXCEPTIONAL Christian parent." Obedient, moral children would prove that my own faith and life were genuine. What a burdensome way of life, not only for me, but for my sons.
In reality, this is simple proof that I am in as much need of the gracious gospel of Jesus as my sons were/are. Because of the mercy of God in Christ, I don't have to despair of my parenting failures. I have confessed my sins and errors to my sons and though I hope they have heard and responded, my hope for them does not lie in my ability to adequately confess or right my wrongs. My confidence is that HE is fully capable of bringing them to himself and healing any hurt, damage, or distorted beliefs they have as a result of my parenting, whether through or apart from my acknowledgement.
Bottom line: even if I had parented as perfectly as humanly possible...even if I had more accurately taught and displayed the Good News, in the end, the ONLY thing that will save them...or ME...is the work of Jesus Christ, who loves us and delivers us and draws us near even when we don't obey all the way...right away...with a good attitude...every day.
Our father is forever faithful, he knows our frame, he gives us eyes to see ourselves when we're ready, and he grants us repentance and life. And we can trust him to do the same for our children. Thanks be to God.
NOTE: This is not about self-flagellation, nor am I seeking accolades for my parenting, nor is it an indictment of my sons! I dearly loved my boys and tried - in the best way I knew how at the time - to shower them with love, to train their hearts to love God, and to allow them joy in the process. I did some things right along the way. BUT...as I grow and change and experience The Good News in new ways in my own life, my perspective changes and I see my parenting differently. I hope to challenge/encourage young parents or to-be parents (such as my own sons...) to formulate their expectations for obedience from a more gracious stance and with a view to their children's AND THEIR OWN ongoing need for Jesus.