Every Good Parent Will Have Regrets

Advice to My 30-Year-Old Self

Once, a man told me about a parenting event titled “No Regrets.” I assumed it was an event organized by parents of newborns. The parent with no regrets, after all, probably needs to think a little deeper. If you have no regrets in parenting, just ask your kids.

 

What would I tell my younger self about parenting?

Being invited to write on that question is akin to being offered free dental work. The gesture, though appreciated, involves drilling and often some pain. But even as I heard the drill cranking up, several themes came to my mind which seem helpful to share.

1. Parenting will not mainly expose your strengths, but reveal your weaknesses.

Many parents see childrearing as a platform to display their faithfulness and wisdom, even God’s validation of their parenting choices. That’s certainly what I imagined signing up for. I figured parenting, as a brand, was taking a serious hit and could use some fresh blood — some innovative determination from the next generation. In my mind, parenting was a golden opportunity to portray my strengths.

Or so I thought.

Wow, was I deluded. Parenting exposed every spiritual weakness within my soul, my marriage, and my family; it even created some new ones. Parenting acquainted me with desperation, teased me with fear, and awakened me to countless dark nights of the soul.

I didn’t realize that a child’s “seeming” lack of progress was the place where parents truly encounter God. We pray, “God, fix them!” Then God whispers back, “Yes, Dave, they’re on my list. But first let’s talk about you.” Parenting didn’t exhibit my strengths; it exposed my limitations. It revealed the dozens of places where I trusted in myself and my leadership rather than in God. Ultimately, it laid me low and revealed my self-trust. But that weakness drove me to Jesus where, in my desperation, I was able to see he had plans for my kids and power for me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Parents, consider this: Weakness is so important to God that he’ll take the highest earthly experience — the things that elate us (2 Corinthians 12:7) like marriage and parenting — and use them to impose the kind of weakness that delivers his power.

2. Your biggest battle will be the fight for your own faith.

As your kids grow, their preferences morph, their styles change, and their predilections reverse. Part of growing up is deciding what you don’t like or believe so you can run towards what you do. It’s natural and good, but sometimes it was disorienting for me as a dad.

When one of my kids developed a conviction, it seemed like a referendum on my parenting. It wasn’t always easy to find my ground — to know where to stand. The uncertainty resulted in unexpected pressure within me, and this pressure inevitably ricocheted back on my kids.

My problem was not my kids; it was my faith. Unbelief centers faith in the wrong places — it moves us from God’s grace to our activity. We x-ray our kids, looking for the smallest signs of positive changes. We fret over every questionable choice rather than prayerfully trust God’s promises. This makes us circumstance-centered rather than God-centered. When we find ourselves stuck here, Abraham’s example can help us.

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