My baby girl got engaged last night! It seems like yesterday we were driving to McDonalds, watching her bounce up and down in her car seat yelling, “Shake, Fries, Donalds—Exciiiiiiitteed!” Now she’s yelling, “Shake, Fries, Dom (Dom is his name)—Excited!” I am thanking God this morning that I’m excited too!
I started praying for my children’s spouses the day they were born! I know God heard me. I think about Dom’s character and the choices he’s made—God has obviously been guiding and leading him and protecting him. It’s pretty amazing. So pray for your kid’s spouse even though you don’t yet know them—God does! And time in His world isn’t linear like ours.
But here I sit on the backside of yesterday—speaking Sunday morning about father wounds, then celebrating my daughter’s engagement last night. If what I said is true, that no one comes out unharmed—how have I wounded her? Wow—that’s a tough question to ponder. In fact, I’d rather not think about it. I’d rather think about what a great parent I’ve been. I think that is true—I have been a very engaged parent in the lives of both my kids, and the payoff is that we have great relationships today. But I’ve also wounded them.
In some ways, I think this is inevitable. “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53). “All sin and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). How could we think we will be the special ones who become the first perfect parents? So what do we do with the fact that we probably have wounded our kids along the way? How do we becoming healing agents? This is the important question.
We humble ourselves and seek God’s healing. We can proudly deepen the wound or become healing agents to our children as they grow up. God has not left us to drown in our own vomit, He is in it with us rescuing and redeeming (healing and growing) us all. So the very best thing we can do for our kids, is to become more and more self-aware by becoming God-aware. Letting God’s Spirit and scripture be a daily mirror we hold up to our lives, asking Him, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). This keeps us from inflicting deep wounds that never heal.
Don’t over-react. Not every wound is the same depth, and every wound can heal. The two over-reactions parents can have is to not care and do nothing (they’ll get over it), or to be so fearful you never bring discipline or allow them to suffer consequences. Discipline feels like “hurting them” but it’s not the same as “wounding them.” “Do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Hebrews 12:5-6). Letting our children feel the pain of consequences for wrong actions is not wounding them, it’s loving them (assuming love, not anger or frustration is our motivation).
Say “I’m Sorry.” When you let God search your heart daily, you will see some place where you sinned against your kids or in front of your kids. This is your chance to heal or wound. Do what you make your kids do when wrong—go to them and say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong.” This heals. And if you said something damaging, admit it was wrong, and replace it with a blessing. This heals. How many adults would have found healing years ago if their proud father or critical mother had just been humble enough to do this? Letting our kids see us humbly grow spiritually models what they will need to do to have increasingly healthy families.
Learn from the Past. There may be seasons that are now long gone. You look back and see that it might have done some damage. As your kids get older (teens into young adults), process with them what happened. Process it from God’s perspective, not “here’s why I did this,” or “your father was just…” – excuses don’t heal. Honesty about our own broken, wounded humanity that sometimes strays from God’s path (despite our best intentions), and helping them see why God’s will would have been better, let’s them learn from your mistakes.
I’ve had to do this with my daughter (and son) over the years. Kathy and I did not make it out of parenting without mistakes. But we also didn’t make it through without appropriate apologies, processing the past, and learning with our kids as they’ve grown up. I want to believe we did such a great job that my daughter will one day be the perfect parent, but she won’t (No Perfect Parents Allowed). At the same time, I do believe we can pass on a better legacy than our parents left us, and that’s my new prayer for my daughter and future son-in-law!
Love to hear your reflections and thoughts.