thatmom

real encouragement for real homeschooling moms

getting rid of hypocrisy ~ grace in parenting, part two

For several decades, my mom and dad taught a Sunday school class full of lively 3rd and 4th graders in the small Baptist church where I grew up. It was just the age group that they really enjoyed and the children seemed to realize how much my parents loved them and cared about them.

One year the church was asked to participate in testing a new curriculum put out by the denomination and it caused quite a tiz among some of the members who felt that the more “hands-on” approach to learning it recommended was unnecessary. They complained to the deacons and gave unfavorable reviews to the publishers of the material. But they failed to acknowledge that many of their own children didn’t even attend Sunday school though several of them were the correct age for my folks’ class.

I can remember my parents’ astute observation that a Christian walk is “caught” not “taught” and that children will be less likely to believe the truth of the Gospel message or see the importance of the Bible unless they have parents who believe it themselves and demonstrate it in their actions.

How much more important is this for those of us who are homeschooling our children? We are their mentors, teachers, counselors, coaches, best friends, and often classmates as we learn alongside them. They see us from the first pre-cup-of-coffee “good morning” to the moment we fall into bed. They listen in to our conversations, hear our critique of the Sunday morning sermon in the car on the way home from church, know how we spend our time and money, and what books, magazines, and movies we bring in the front door. Sometimes we may not realize it but they know us better than we know ourselves.

I love those first few years of raising little ones when they gaze so lovingly into your eyes while you nurse, their tiny fingers wrapping all around yours. I love how they jump up and down anxiously waiting for daddy to pull into the driveway. In those early years you have their complete trust and they believe in you with all their hearts. It is in those tender years that we plant the first seeds of the Gospel message. They associate our love and watch care over them with the Savior who also loves them.

As they grow older and their temptations, doubts and fears all become more sophisticated, it is then that our true character is put to the test. In the process of wanting to raise children who demonstrate godly character, one of the goals of all homeschoolers, we must realize that we cannot expect of them what we are not.

Sadly, through our hypocrisy, we often practice what Jesus warned against: “ Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Being sinfully fallen and too often hypocritical and self-centered, we create stumbling blocks for our children in their relationship to Christ.

Sobering thought, isn’t it, that through our unbelief we might be causing our little ones to stumble. Yet the Lord in his tremendous mercy and grace, has given us the opportunity to be forgiven of our behaviors and attitudes through confessing our sins to Christ and then, in repentance, turning away from them, making restitution where necessary and seeking the forgiveness of those we have harmed, beginning by confessing to and seeking forgiveness from our children.

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed because His compassions do not fail!”

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1 Comment»

  Cindy K wrote @

Karen,

This really grieves me and concerns me. I have a friend who had a terrible sexual experience when she was growing up, and it left her with some deep wounds that had only begun to heal by the time she had her own children. She has mostly girls, and things were fairly easy when they were small. I found myself thinking about watching their relationships grow and mature as the kids grew up. One daughter not only looks more like her mother, they seem to me to have very similar personalities. When this daughter, in particular, started to become womanly, this presented a very difficult challenge for my friend, because it forced my friend to deal with the unhealed wounds related to her own sexuality and how that pulled up shame that she would have preferred to ignore. She has terrible fear for her daughter, knowing what she had experienced herself, in relationships where she should have been safe and protected. Because of all of the similarities between them, I believe that this only enhanced the tendency for my friend to identify and sometimes project her own unrelated “junk” onto this daughter in particular (“If it was true for me, we are so much alike, it can only be true for her;” and “If I felt this way, my daughter must feel this way, too.”). Along with that, it pulled out the self-hatred and self-condemnation related to her trauma because it was so connected to sexuality for her. At times, my friend unloaded this on her daughter, just really because she had not healed herself.

This has always affected their relationship, but the last few years have been difficult. In the middle of some of their most terrible struggles, I happened to pick up a copy of “Safe People” by Townsend and Cloud, all for completely unrelated reasons. Within this book, I saw myself with my own parents, I felt the pain of years of watching these struggles between two of some of my most favorite people in the world, but I also saw my friend and her daughter (someone who I also consider to be a very important friend). I sent her a copy of the book, and I remember weeping to my friend on the phone, looking at specific passages. I expressed my concern that my friend was not a “safe person” for her daughter, and I asked that she consider this book in order to help her change her relationships with her girls. The book talks about how to identify people with whom you can be safe in relationships, but it also talks about how Christians should be safe people for others. It was my great hope that this book could help them learn to be both be safe people for one another. They were anything but safe at that time, and only now is the relationship beginning to heal.

My friend chose to never disclose her past experiences with her children, hiding them like a deep and terrible wound to protect herself from further pain. I believe that the degree of intimacy in the relationships with her older girls (her young women) became one of the prices that she has paid for her avoidance of this shame. And though there has been much healing in her life over time, the fear of being ashamed in front of her children and of causing them personal shame has done much damage, besides the fact that fear hath torment. She could not be transparent with them (though I am certainly not suggesting that she give them morbid details). But she hid her wounds and her motivations, and much distrust developed as a result. In this area, my friend was so guarded, and the children did not understand her fear, what became double standards, and what they could tell were reactions that were out of sync and proportion in these matters. When the girls became old enough to understand that something didn’t make sense, those unanswered and unexplained responses and such pulled them further apart rather than closer together.

Kids are so sharp when it comes to trust. They read us so acutely, particularly when they are very young. I can remember having a similar experience with someone in my life who explained to me how hard it was to see me grow past them in a certain area. It brought them shame and it became intimidating for them. Rather than expressing their feelings and being honest with me in an atmosphere of respect (and taking the risk of vulnerability with me, too), they responded with anger, defensiveness, criticism and avoidance. It felt very much like a betrayal for me, from my perspective. They pulled back from the transparency that intimacy requires.

Now that there has been healing and God has done a great work in these areas in all of those I have mentioned, things continue to get better and better. The relationships are healing. But I think of how easy it would have been and how many YEARS and how much JOY was lost, instead spent guarding wounds and resisting feeling shame – shame that the Lord wanted to heal. In many ways, for my friend, I believe that her daughter was like God’s scalpel that He used to help heal this old, festering wound. My friend pulled back from it out of fear of shame and the pain that seemed overwhelming for her, along with the ideas that she needed to be the perfect, victorious, and virtuous mother, not only to her children but for her children. I hope that others can learn from this and maybe count the potential cost of striving to be the perfect, immaculate parent. Kids know that we are not perfect, and I believe that the fruit of our transparency with kids will be a harvest of strong, intimate relationships. I also believe that the fruit of our resistance, our own idolatry of self and our hypocrisy results in alienation and rejection. I don’t want to see anyone reap that harvest, particularly not in relationships with their beloved children.


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