I don’t like to fail. I especially don’t like to fail when it comes to parenting.
I know the familiar quotes:
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
“Failures are part of life. If you don’t fail, you don’t learn. If you don’t learn, you’ll never change.”
“Fail: First Attempt In Learning.”
“You are not a failure until you give up.”
Yes, these are true, and when it comes to something like running races, I can catch the spirit behind these quotes, make light of a failure and try harder the next time, stretching myself to a new personal record. When one of my kids is having a lot of trouble with a subject in school, I remind him or her of these sentiments: It’s ok; you just need more practice! Try again!” I have the child do the same geography quiz the next day and the next day until he or she gets it.
However, when it comes to parenting, failure can sometimes make the phrase “epic fail” an understatement. Sure, failure is a part of life, and I will fail as a parent, but the stakes are so much higher than a cross country race, math test, or even an employment. Of course most of us parents are not going to give up, and a parent can and does try, try again, but every failure can have a lasting effect on a child. I don’t like to focus on the failures of my own (otherwise wonderful) parents, but some of those have clung to me my whole life and shaped who I am. I don’t want my own failures to negatively shape my children.
I have been reading and worshiping with a book I plan to review soon called The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents by Becky Harling. The other day, one of Harling’s prayers hit a raw spot in my heart. I choked at the thought of praying, “I thank You, [God], that as a human parent I am unable to fulfill every hunger of [my child’s] heart.” I didn’t want to thank God for that fact. I truly want to be able to fulfill every hunger my children face, soothe every pain, and in every other way be there for them to the highest degree possible. But I can’t. I will continue to try, but I can’t do it.
However, God can. And if I could, why would they need HIM?
So, I took a breath and chose to thank Him for it, for the fact that I am inadequate to perfectly parent my children. I choose to trust Him to make up the difference, the places where I fall short, where I fail. Instead of getting the glory for being the best mother, I choose to let God’s glory shine.
How do I know God will rush in to fill the gaping cracks I’ve left in my children? For one, He promises through Paul, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). He won’t leave the work in my children unfinished because they were stuck with an imperfect mother. On top of that, He also promises, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (II Cor. 12:9).
Although that should be enough, even more convincing to me is watching Him play this out in my own life. My parents, like every parent in history, made some mistakes while raising me, and those mistakes had a role in shaping who I am, but they do not ultimately define me. He placed other mentors in my life to teach me in areas my parents weren’t able to teach me in as much depth. Through other mistakes my parents made, God caused me to turn to Him in deeper dependence. In fact, my failures in parenting my children not only give my children the opportunity to go to God, they turn me as a parent to Him, for I’ve learned that no matter how hard I try, try again, I can’t have much success without His help.
I still really don’t want to fail my kids in any way. However, when I do, what a relief it is to lean on God and trust that He will make up for my failures in a way even the most sincere apology on my part (which is still important) will never do. So, thank God that as human parents we are unable to fulfill every hunger of our children’s hearts. Thank God that He is.