I was a lousy parent.
I became a parent at 17. Without a clue, I became a single mom before I graduated from high school.
Yes, I had a support system, but along the way I got sidetracked and moved away. Looking back on it now, God used that topsy-turvy time to introduce Himself to me. That was a good thing because, quite frankly, I was lost in more ways than one.
The flip-side to that is I had no clue how to be a Christian. I didn’t know what it meant to be a true follower of Christ.
When I came to know Jesus personally, I was introduced to life in a denominational church. While there were many foundational truths established in me there, I didn’t necessarily know how to live them out properly as a parent.
Product of a broken home, I longed for acceptance. I longed for structure. I longed to just…do things right…since what I experienced was the opposite.
I adopted structure alright, but without the wisdom, grace and understanding that was needed. Rules mattered. Doing things right mattered.
Grace? Mercy? Wisdom? I didn’t understand how to marry those with scripture. Jesus walked those out even with those who didn’t believe or agree, whether they were religious or alien to His way of teaching. I used to say to my kids, “The Mama is always right.”
Looking back, I can see how “righteous” I thought I was in my parenting only to realize how self-righteous I really was.
Merriam-Webster defines righteousness as:
- morally right or justifiable
- arising from an outraged sense of justice or morality
It defines self-righteous as:
- Convinced of one’s own righteousness especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others : narrow-mindedly moralistic
Social media has been a boon to my career. In 2012, I quit a long-time job to pursue a career in sports. Despite a bump in that road, social media helped me get my current job. It also allowed me to make connections with people I never would have otherwise.
What used to be a fun way to connect has now become a yoke of heaviness.
On any given day, be it on Twitter or Facebook, I see media members or friends and acquaintances mocking, berating, sub-tweeting/posting, “yelling at” or complaining about other people and their point of views.
It doesn’t matter if they know the people or not. If they have an opinion, they’re bound to say it.
Self-righteous — Convinced of one’s own righteousness especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others : narrow-mindedly moralistic
God is holy. God is love.
Because He is holy, God does not accept all of the things we say, do and think. But, because He is love, God allows.
Love allows others to make mistakes. Love allows choice even when it isn’t the best option. Love allows repentance. Love allows correction. Love allows human emotions to be expressed like joy, anger, thankfulness, fear, discouragement, loneliness and more.
But love also prays. Love prays God’s will for others. Not what we think their lives should be, no. God’s will can only be found in scripture.
Love doesn’t pray for change in and of itself. Love prays for others to know God, to know His character – love, patience, kindness, humility, service, hopefulness, gratitude, truthfulness, belief, endurance, unlimitedness and knowledge of Him.
The more we know God, the more we will change. His presence with all of its holiness and true love will demand change. He is holy – we cannot stay the same and expect to remain in His presence.
I thought I knew Him. I thought I was in His presence as a parent.
Truth be told, I was actually in fear.
I was afraid of being judged. I was afraid of making a mistake. I was afraid of making mistakes that would lead my kids down a wrong path. I was afraid of being wrong. I was afraid that I wasn’t good enough to be their parent. I was afraid that they weren’t getting all that they needed from us. I was afraid to be both parental roles. I was afraid to not be both parental roles. I was afraid of them being influenced by the wrong type of friends. I was afraid of them not being treated fairly in school, in sports and in life. I was afraid of squashing their personalities. I was afraid that their personalities would embarrass me or themselves. I was afraid that I wouldn’t give them all that they needed so they wouldn’t turn out like me.
Did I mention that I was in fear?
I can look back on it now with honesty. But I see so much of that list above in many parents today. The world has changed and, in many respects, has gotten worse than my day. And, in others, it’s still the same.
I’ve had to fight through a lot of pain, fear and insecurity to get to where I am today. Not saying I’m anywhere in particular, but I am confident in one thing: God.
Despite all of my self-righteous ways parenting my kids when they were young, I trust God. Even if they aren’t in a strong relationship with God right now, I trust Him. Why? Because I know Him. I spend time with Him. Whenever I spend time with Him, I learn more and more about Him and His character.
God allowed me to make mistakes with my kids, my marriage, my family and even in my career. He allows me to make my own choices. Some align with scripture and even His character. Some don’t. But He loves me and lets me learn through those choices.
I learn about my need for Him. As will my children.
I don’t want them to believe in God because I said so. I don’t want my grandchildren to do that either. Or my great-grandchildren. As much as it pains me to see the challenges they’ve gone through and what they face today, I want them to choose God because they want a relationship with Him.
Because God allowed (and allows) me, so too will I allow them to choose.
It doesn’t mean I won’t speak into their lives about Him. I do. They don’t always want to hear it, but when I am led by Holy Spirit, I will. As long as I have breath on this earth, I will do that. The times we live in, demand it.
The world is getting more chaotic – see “American Christian’s Reckoning” – and self-righteous in all its ways. Despite all of that, God still chooses love. God loves us enough to let us choose the path we walk.
Make no mistake though. He’s not hands off in the way we think. He is speaking to us. He is revealing more of Himself. He allows people and circumstances to come into our lives to help us choose the right path.
Right now, He is calling people…His church, His bride…to a time of repentance. He is calling us to His righteousness instead of our own. He is calling us to a time of prayer unseen in our lifetime. He is calling us to His way of life (Isaiah 55:8-9).
It won’t be found through social media. It won’t be found in people. It won’t be found in the world’s way of activism. It will only be found in prayer.
True, unselfish, unhindered prayer requires sacrifice. Sacrifice is anti-self-righteousness. Sacrifice means letting go of our own priorities, ideas, concepts, beliefs and especially, time. It means putting someone else above ourselves.
Our world needs prayer. Beyond words. Beyond thought. Beyond anything we post online. Romans 8:26 (ESV):
Sacrificial, Spirit-led prayer is not prevalent in the church today. There are pockets, but corporately, it is non-existent. We are more concerned with our individual kingdoms than we are with Spirit-led prayer for others.
I don’t say that accusatorily, pointing the finger at others. As I shared above, I’ve lived that life. At times, it still rears its ugly head. But now, as I get older and see the path society is walking, I am more convicted than ever that I must pray in the Spirit.
Am I willing to pray for those whom I disagree with? Am I willing to pray for those who hurt or ridicule me? Am I willing to pray for those who have never asked for my forgiveness? Am I willing to pray for others sacrificially?
Sacrificial, Spirit-led prayer is warfare. There is no let-up. It requires fight. It requires being prepared and ready with our armor (Ephesians 6:10-18). It requires a willingness to lay down one’s life (John 15:13, 1 John 3:16) for another. It requires discipline (1 Thessalonians 5). It requires a single-mindedness (James 1:7-8, James 4:8) on God and His purpose.
God loves His creation (earth, man). He loves life because He created it. He desires relationship with us and that all be saved. (1 Timothy 2:3-4). We choose to accept, or we reject Him and His ways.
The question before us today is which path do we choose: His or ours?
See, this world, this country of America, things are going to get worse (John 16:33) – see “American Christian’s Reckoning“.
Each and every day we are getting closer to the time of Jesus’ return. He is coming back (Revelation 1:7, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Matthew 24:36 and more) for His people. Will we be ready?
Will we spend the time waiting for Him by feeding our souls and minds with the “fruit” of this world or the fruit of the Spirit? Are we so consumed with His presence or our own righteousness and pride? Will we continue to point out the error of others’ ways, or bend our knee and repent before the One who can forgive and redeem us?
Until then, we have a choice.
Because love allows….
Knees Down, Prayers Up,