Once again, I have heard the sorrowful testimony of Christian parents estranged from their child. Such heartache is inconsolable, and only those whose hearts are breaking in such a way can understand the paralyzing grief. Some of us may be able to put our finger square on the fault in our own bosoms that alienated such a child. Others of us may be genuinely perplexed. Whatever the cause, the consequence is the same.
To add to such misery, some in the religious community would stoically pronounce judgment on our Christian credentials and sew upon our bosoms the condemnation of the scarlet A. We may as well pack our few possessions and move down to the forlorn, wind-swept, and isolated cabin with Hester Prynne. (The Scarlet Letter) Our presence encumbers those who are still qualified to âserve the Lord.â We have sinned the unpardonable sin, and it is known by the behavior of our children. Whatever knowledge energized us, whatever wisdom convicted us, whatever prudence emboldened us to remain stalwart to Truth in those early days of parenting is now stricken from the books as evidence, either no longer relevant, or worse yet, evidence used against us.
âWhy is it so?â we cry out in the darkness that enshrouds our hearts. âWhy my children? This was what I wanted to avoid!â Of course, thatâs so; and itâs so for the countless languishing in the same parental boat. And truly, it is puzzling, when we muse without Providential oversight, that a sizable portion of the âtwenty-somethings to forty-somethingsâ brought up in Christian homeschools and Christian day schools have not just turned aside from their parentsâ teaching, but have done so with a vengeance that remains unexplainable in most cases. It even seems that the more sacrificial the parentsâ service, the more contemptuous the response of the children.
There is no cure for this malady in our lives apart from the healing and regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Why He chose to allow such fruit from among a generation sincerely trying to prepare a godly generation to follow, in the only way they understood at the time, is now a mystery. Could we garner any comfort in remembering that the very grandchildren of our godly Puritan forefathers turned to Unitarianism with their catechisms ringing in their ears? Perhaps some light can be shed in our Lordâs own confession: ââŚif the mighty worksâŚhad been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repentedâŚâ (Matthew 11:21). The turning of nations is the work of the Lord, as is the giving of faith and repentance. Whether it has been His pleasure to grant our children that faith and repentance rests solely in His sovereign will, but that neither negates our faithful administration nor excuses our unfaithful administration of His Word as parents in our homes. Until we parents can both understand and accept this, we can never hope to move up from our abyss.
So, truthfully, does this leave us as failures? Thatâs a legitimate question that can only be effectually answered and remedied by the healing work of the Holy Spirit in the application of the Word. But perhaps someone acting in the capacity of the Evangelist (The Pilgrimâs Progress) pointing to âyonder light,â will lift our heads from the Slough of Despond and turn our eyes toward the Light and the hope of healing. Just maybe by the painful articulation of those thoughts that have so held us captive, we will be brought to enough release to reveal to us that our ears are those who still have hearing.
First, letâs articulate some of the grievances that have wet our pillows. These are the children who now hand down their ruling on our law with the smugness of a county judge. But remember, our adjudication is on the federal level and our tenure is for life; and all judges owe their rulings and their regard to the Supreme Judge whose Law it is we have feebly attempted to administer.
Of course, we donât want them to like ways we believe are wrong; but gone are the days when we could make them eat their broccoli because we believed it was good for them. We live in a democratic time in which peer opinion out-ranks anything senior. All the counsel of their brief acquaintances given without the price of sacrifice outweighs our knee-worn counsel pressed under by the burden of parental love.
We can no longer garrison ourselves in a spiritual cloister and refuse to acknowledge the spirit of the age that has permeated now even our own homes. It is the Nietzsche spirit of âsuper-willâ that scorns âservant-hoodâ in any flavor. Our childrenâs generation is the ripe fruit of the âwe did it our way and these boots were made for walkingâ generation. We may have taught our children the Christian values of self-denial and loving our enemies, and they may have watched from their childhood sidelines as we endured scorn from friends and family and suffered the loneliness of no church family or lack of Christian friends. But for many of them, this will not be their lifestyle. Some will âmisâ-appropriate the very Scriptures we taught them in order to justify a life from which we sought to protect them. Some will deny the validity of the Scriptures altogether and embrace the forbidden and indulge in the fruit. Some will âcorrectâ us in our âmisunderstandings.â This correction wonât be wrapped in the tearful softness of a loving, grateful child; but rather it will find its expression in a scornful pride that ranks its brief, focused study as weightier than our years of submitted, all-encompassing study reflected in painful experience and lowly wisdom. Itâs the attitude with which their vigilante justice toward us is administered and the contempt with which their actions seem to mock us that presses us under as God said Israelâs sin had pressed Him. (Amos 2:13) âYou only have I known of all the families of the earthâŚâ (Amos 3:2) And even as our God grieved for the love spurned, He promised a full measure of return. To whom much is given, much will be required. (Luke 12:48)
It seems we are forced to stand by and watch their âvictoriesâ in their new lives as if we are vanquished foes and condemned slaves until we, at last, succumb to the anguish and humiliation in a capitulation that will never really re-establish our parenthood. We will always be the vanquished; we will always be the âbank of you owe it to meâ; we will always be the scullery maid who stole the lovely trinkets of a spoiled childhood. In their estimation, we just need to get used to the new way of things. They will set up housekeeping the way they believe is right in spite of the hindrances we have caused them or the fact that we donât approve. They havenât liked our wheel because they have a better one.
But here is the key to our recovery. Our failings do not remove us from office. Cainâs murder of Abel rendered Cain the outcast from God, not his father Abel. Isaac had sinned in favoring Esau in spite of Godâs choice of Jacob. But Esauâs marriages to Canaanite wives proved his true heart, and the revelation of his true heart did not remove his father Isaac as the patriarchal heir of the covenant promises. Samuel was not driven from the prophetâs chamber because his sons were dishonest. David retained his authority to crown the next king, even after his sin and in spite of Absalomâs treachery. We will always be the parents who are to be honored by the commandment with promise.
Then what do we do? As in all things, we confess our sin. Surely, if we think all day, every day for the rest of our lives, we will not understand all the wrong we have done nor which wrong specifically sealed the attitudes of our children toward us. Weâre not asked to do so. We are told to repent and promised that He will heal. He forgives our sin and places it behind His back. We may have trouble putting it behind our own backs, but we must still move forward in spite of it. This repentance is a final action; it is not accomplished one evening with the sin laid aside to be retrieved the next morning. It is a scar that may remain tender, not an oozing sore that cannot heal. It is a wet pillow, but a smiling face. It is a mouth of wisdom, and a tongue of praise. It is a servant submitted, and a child leaning on His bosom. It is the marching step of a soldier in the flickering light of a candle. It is service to the worthiest of Kings.
We are not failures. We have failed; but if we are redeemed, we are no longer failures. But we must keep ever before us that our children are just thatâthey are our children, the recipients of our own personal, sinful propensities. Perhaps that will help us to put into right perspective our downtrodden spirits that it is our children who are behaving in such a way. We must submit to the purposes of God in their livesâeven if it means His rejecting them.
And we must look for âspiritual orphansâ put in our paths who need our spiritual teaching. Our Lord told us that the fields were âwhite unto harvest.â (John 4:35) It is so, if we will but look. Our fellowship may no longer find peace and spiritual intercourse with our âbloodâ children; but others may be given to us for our experienced care and nurture. We must leave the monastic cell of our self-flagellation, and return to the battlefield. We have the armor. We have the call. God equips repentant failures.
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