The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

There’s a blogger I read frequently who posts all kinds of interesting links each day. He linked to a story a while back about a man whose wife dies a slow, painful death from cancer. Their best friend moves in to help the family through the ordeal. It’s an emotional story, and here was his conclusion after posting it:

I struggle with friendship. And with family. I worry about my children, about my relationships with them. I worry about being a good parent, about being a good parenting partner with their mom. How much of me do I really want to impart to them? I want them to be better than me, but I can’t tell them or show them how to do that because I’m me. I took my best shot at being better and me is all I came up with. What if I’m just giving them the bad parts, without even realizing it? … this is way too much for a Monday.

I thought about this off and on before realizing why it bothered me so much: his framework on life gives him no perspective in which to put the big things like death, suffering, parenting, being better, trying and failing, wrestling with the tough questions.

We all struggle with this – I wonder all the time how my kids are going to turn out and why am I not doing more to make them wonderful human beings and what can I do better and oh man, am I failing miserably at this? His worldview, though, doesn’t give him a place to take those doubts. He’s very man-centered – he posts about what man can do and about what science shows us, but that’s as far as his faith goes.

His faith is in things around him. I don’t want that. I want faith in something infinite, something deeper and wiser and better than anything I could dream up, something big enough for all my doubts and fears.

So here’s where I put my faith:

I believe God created the world to work in a specific way that leads to his glory and our joy. The best way for us to be truly satisfied – to fill that deep longing within us – is to live according to God’s design.

The problem, though, is that we thought we knew better. Sin entered the world and corrupted God’s good design. This world and the people in it are broken, and we see the consequences of this every day: shootings, death, poverty, accidents, arguments, fears, evil, pride and so much more. We are all broken. We can’t get better no matter how hard we try.

The only way to become whole is to trade our brokenness for Christ’s perfection. He lived a perfect life because he knew we wouldn’t. His death on the cross is his payment for our debt. He trades his righteousness for our sin. The freedom that comes with this great exchange is life-giving and empowering. We can live as God intended, and as we follow him, he leads us into fullness of joy. Struggles and doubts still come, but underneath them is a foundation of grace.

Now here’s one way that gospel truth helps in parenting:

I don’t have to depend on “I took my best shot at being better and me is all I came up with.” That’s a hopeless place to be. I make it there pretty quickly, but then I lay that best shot at Jesus’ feet and tell my kids to look to Him for the good parts, not to me. And those bad parts I’m passing on? Jesus already paid for them, so he’s got those covered too.

There is freedom in the releasing of this burden. We all want our kids to turn out better than we did, but it doesn’t depend on us – it depends on the God who said, “Let there be light,” the God who inscribed a circle on the face of the deep, the God who marked out the foundations of the earth. I would much rather trust him than me.

Yes, we should do all we can to pour ourselves into our kids. We should plan and educate and work and love and pray, but we do so with hope, not despair, with faith, not doubt. Our kids will get the good, the bad and the ugly from us no matter what we do, so we point them to the ultimate Good and trust that he will take care of them.

That’s good news any day of the week.