I have the world's greatest kids. I am really bad at letting them know that I know that. I am quick to teach, to explain, to correct. I am too quick to discipline, to come across as biting, to undercut. Without intention, I too often make them feel small.
When they were born, I made promises to them, to Gena, to myself, to God. When I looked forward, I had no doubt that I would be the Dad with the intimate, sharing relationship with each of my kids. There would be nothing that they could or would not tell me. I would be full of compassion, kindness, and patience. I, who have been such a recipient of the grace and lovingkindness of God, would be a conduit of that same grace and lovingkindness to my kids.
I have not kept those promises. I am not patient, not nearly patient enough. I speak unkindly far too often.
Oh, I have my excuses. I have high expectations for my kids... I see things in them that they don't see and to which they need to be pushed ... The world out there is tough and they need to be ready... I am tired... They know better...
I could go on and on.
But to push my kids to meet my personal expectations in the midst of a tough world was not my promise. My promise was to be patient and kind and to model for them the incredible grace that has been shown to me. I fail.
I think I know why. Oh, of course part of the "why" is my own selfishness and my own inflated ego. Part of the reason is my unwillingness to take my eyes off my own goals, whether they be goals for them or goals for me.
But the real reason is self-reliance. I have thought for years that I have this parenting thing figured out. I know what is best and I know how to get there. I have smart kids, and they will figure out what I intend and what I know - even when I don't bother to verbalize those things - and cut me slack when I am ungracious along the way. If everybody will just follow my plan, the results will be wonderful.
That is so counter to everything I know about the gospel. The point of our lives is that we cannot help ourselves. I am stuck in a miry pit. I am a sinner. The hymnwriter says I am a wretch. How can I possibly keep these promises?
I cannot keep these promises myself. Years of empirical evidence prove that only too well.
Of course the gospel does not stop there. Patience and kindness are not something I can gin up on my own, but I have a Helper. Patience and kindness and goodness are fruit of the Spirit. They are His work, not mine.
It is time for me to get out of the way. It is time for my kids to see less of the promises and more of the Promise.