As a young mom, I tried to do everything right. The longer I parent, the less I seek “success” and the more I rely on God’s grace.
We did everything right. As Christian parents, we scan the checklists of steps to bring up a child in the Lord. We teach them right from wrong. We tell them about Jesus. We bring them to Sunday School. We make it to church.
Of course, none of us parent perfectly. But watching a child go through deep spiritual struggles can be disorienting when we’ve done everything in our power to prevent it—often with a fervor fueled by our own humbling spiritual history. We’ve learned painful lessons with God, and we want to keep our children from having to learn them too.
Except that’s not how it works. We can’t keep our children from struggling—and if we try, we risk instead keeping them from the full truth and beauty of the gospel.
I grew up in what’s often dubbed a “broken home”—though I would also call it happy. My mom worked hard, and my grandparents lived with us for some of those years. Still, with that background, when my husband and I first started having kids, we set out to do it perfectly, as many new parents do.
With a confidence on the scale of first-year seminary students, we proof-texted all the verses in the Bible about parenting, order, and discipline, and we plugged it into an equation for perfect parenting. Our kids were going to be awesome because we were going to be awesome parents. We were parenting by the Book.
There’s nothing like the arrogance of the young and inexperienced—though, in hindsight, our problem was more than youth and pride. We had taken a prosperity gospel view of family life, moving principles of “health and wealth” into the process of parenting. More than money or physical wellness, family was …