The day I learned that I am not the Messiah was clear and sunny, a rarity for our neck of the woods. I could feel the warmth of the grass as I settled into a spot close to the baptismal. A perfect spot for taking pictures. I was glad I’d remembered to wear my sunglasses as I looked up at the bright sky. My ‘babies’ were about to be baptized. And I had had nothing to do with their decision to do so.
The past several months have been an exercise in surreal living. My oldest daughter, who is 17, has begun what is probably best described as a ‘courting’ relationship. That story is a post in itself for another day, but suffice it to say that she and her young man are doing this ‘dating’ thing very differently than I ever dreamed it could be done. Watching the mature way they are placing boundaries on themselves in order to reach their goal of purity before marriage, is humbling and totally foreign to me.
Then there is my son. At 15, his behavior at times mystifies me. He looks away at movies when a woman is scantily clad and won’t get into the pool if there are girls in too-skimpy bikinis. He explained to me that he just doesn’t want to be tempted to look—he is saving up all of his looking for his future wife. I listen to him singing praise songs at high volume in the shower at night and the sound of it almost brings me to my knees.
And finally there are my two youngest daughters, 9 and 11. They are best friends who delight in counseling their peers on how to get along with their siblings and parents better. They came home from church camp excited about the things they’d learned and they both expressed the desire to be baptized so as to deepen their walk with Jesus.
So there I sat on a sunny Sunday morning, thinking about my freakishly awesome kids and wondering how can this be? When I was the age of my eldest, the list of sins I reveled in would read like a rap sheet. A rather long one. Truth is, looking back, I didn’t know of any kids who were truly grounded in Jesus. And that’s pretty sad when you consider that my friends and I grew up in the church.
The sun was hot on my bare arms as I watched my young ones enter the water. I started to tear up. I thought of all I had done and was humbled that my God is so gracious as to not hold my past against me. But then I thought of all that I have not done, and I just felt confused.
You see, I have been an utter failure when it comes to discipling my children. I have neglected Bible curriculum because I don’t want my Lord’s love letter to them to simply be another subject to mark off of their daily schedule. Yet we’ve never been consistent with family devotion times. I hear other moms speak of being on their knees regularly, interceding in prayer for their children and I feel like a big fat fraud because I don’t. I have no excuses—I simply do not do the things I know I should.
I looked up at the trees surrounding us, trying hard to suck the tears back into my eyeballs. I knew if I allowed them to fall I might very well begin wailing and freak out the entire congregation. I felt the full weight of my failures. My shortcomings as a human and as a parent. My heart felt raw and exposed, baffled and humbled. How could I, of all people, be living this life—with these amazing people? How is it that my children are walking with Jesus when I have allowed my apathy to prevail and have failed them so miserably?
As a light breeze stirred the fir branches high above my head, I felt my Lord answer.
“You are not their Messiah. That pleasure is Mine alone.”
A rush of gratitude filled me, followed by a wave of relief. Jesus knew before He ever created me or my children that I would fail. He knew, and yet He gave them to me anyway. My chest suddenly lightened. A weight I didn’t even know I was carrying was gone. I had been operating under a false assumption that if I got the ‘formula’ right, then my kids would love Jesus. And my soul was heavy because I knew that I was falling abysmally short.
The knowledge that I am not the Messiah frees me to enjoy my children for what they are; priceless gifts bestowed on me by an amazingly generous and forgiving Father God.
So does this get me off the hook for being a lousy mentor? Paul’s words in Romans 6:1-2a come to mind:
“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not!” (NLT)
No, I am definitely not off the hook. However, I am seeing this discipling thing a bit differently now. No longer will I go through religious motions out of a sense of duty, wallowing in guilt when I fail. No, I shall just continue walking alongside them. Imperfectly, to be sure, but with my whole heart. We will learn together and pray together, not because we are supposed to, but simply because our God is good.
I’m sharing this post over at #TheLoft