My #1 Parenting Mistake

Self-portrait painted by my first-born for a college Figure Drawing class:


Pictured above is my daughter, Justine, who went a bit ‘wild’ after graduating high school.  She got herself into some dangerous situations, and learned the hard way that there are many pits and snares in this world; after a year, she decided to move back home.

As I type, she and her brother and sister are bouldering at a climbing gym together.  Their friendship has solidified during this time, and Justine likes to tell them, “Be smart.  Don’t be stupid like I was.”

However, recently, my husband and I had reason to believe that she was being stupid again.  In our despair, we asked ourselves, “How could this be happening!?  What did we do wrong!?  Where did we mess up as parents?”

Turns out, it was a false alarm — phew! — and we had nothing to worry about.

But it led me to ask Justine, “In your opinion, what was it that we did wrong?  How did we fail you?  What made you do the things you did?”

She told me, “Mom, it had nothing to do with you; as an artist, I simply wanted to experience everything that’s out there.”  (She IS quite the artist, huh!?)

But THEN, she remembered something.

She said, “Well, there was one thing:  I’m always apologizing for things that are not my fault.  Remember how you always made me go to my room so I could ask God to forgive me?  I was never sure what I did wrong, but you always forced me to apologize to God.  So now, I constantly say “I’m sorry” for things that are not my fault.”

Oh. My. Gosh!  No.  I didn’t remember that.  It seems so long ago.  I do remember that used to live by 1 John 1:9 myself, and I have a distinct memory of an incident surrounding 1 John 1:9 with my son, but — ouch! —  I would send her to her room so she could ask God to forgive her!?  Gross!

My #1 mistake as a parent was to make my kids think that God still held their sins against them.  I made them apologize to God after they sinned.  THIS is where I messed up.

I completely misunderstood 1 John 1:9.  I totally took it out of context.

In that verse, John is speaking to an unbeliever!  That is proven by reading 1 John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Jesus is the truth.  If the truth is not in you, then Jesus is not in you.  If Jesus is not in you, then you are an unbeliever.

Verses 8 and 9 directed to unbelievers.  In his epistle, John was addressing people who held to the Gnostic belief system, and who needed to be saved by the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.

We are living in the days of the New Covenant.  And in these days it is not necessary to ask God to forgive you for your sins.  God forgave the sin of the world when He died on the cross as the propitiation for our sins.  That is only half the gospel though.  He then rose again to offer His life — His very life.  The life that had been breathed into Adam and Eve.  THAT is what saves a person.

Thank Him for the forgiveness that you have.  Receive the eternal life that He is offering to you and be saved.  Salvation sets you FREE, and it is for freedom that Christ set us free!

However . . .

I wasn’t always a Mom for Freedom.  I used to be a Mom for Obedience.

When they were little, I forced my kids to perform good works for God.  When they exhibited some bad behavior or bad attitude, I would tell them, “If you confess your sin, God is faithful and just to forgive you of your sin.”

And even if it is one little ‘work,’ one tiny ‘law,’ just one small ‘requirement’ . . . well, that ruins the entire New Covenant.

A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough.”  (Gal 5:9)

One “rule” acts like yeast and leavens the entire batch of dough; it spreads throughout the entire gospel of grace and turns the good news into bad news.

The one ‘work’ that Justine remembers being forced to perform was confessing her sins to God.

That evening that Justine told me about my #1 mistake, I got down on my knees, clasped my hands together, and begged her to forgive me!  Think of the contrast.  I am the one who needs HER to forgive ME.

* For more of the topic of forgiveness, check out this blog.


What’s the deal with Debi Pearl?

Have you ever read the book, “Created to be his Help Meet?”  I have.  It’s helped countless number of women to be better wives:  nicer, fairer, more gracious.  It certainly helped me!

But what’s the deal with the book?  What’s the deal with the behavior it generates in women?  What’s the deal with the degrading advice, and the overall tone that asserts that wives are to be subservient to their husbands?

Debbie Pearl basically says, “God created man in His image; then He created Eve from Adam’s rib.  So, Eve was created in Adam’s image.  Not God’s.”

Therefore . . . Adam has worth.  Adam has purpose and meaning.  Eve?  Well . . . do what Adam says, okay?

Don’t get me wrong.  I liked the book A LOT at one time.  For a few years, I enjoyed the person I had become.  I enjoyed the fairy tale marriage I produced.  But the problem was, as the years went by, I grew in the Lord.  I began to see Debbie Pearl’s book for what it was:  a formula.  A set of legalistic rules and guidelines and principles to live by.

My friends and I (who had formed a ‘Created to be his Help-Meet’ book club, to discuss and go over every nuance of every page) eventually tired of the BS.

Years later, my husband would tell me, “you’ve become a smartass.”

Well, not really.  It’s just that I was not kissing his feet anymore.  I was not afraid of him anymore.  I was maturing in my life in Christ and was therefore becoming more me.  The shackles of religion were falling off, and I was being set free.

Okay.  So, to answer the question, “what’s the deal with her book?”  Well, I don’t know.  It’s just a very in-your-face, c’mon-stop-complaining-about-him kind of book.  Debbie Pearl makes the claim that every wife has something against her husband, some grudge, some complaint, some “thing” that is hindering her from really enjoying married life.  And Debbie is right in most cases.  Let’s face it, wives . . . we are forever trying to control those poor boys, are we not?  (Hello!  The curse of Genesis 3!)

Man, we need to let it go.

But don’t use Debbie Pearl’s book as your impetus.  Use the grace of God.

Learn that God does not expect you to be perfect, so that you can give your husband grace for not being perfect either.

Learn that God has totally forgiven you of all your sins – past, present and future – so that you can learn to forgive your husband’s sins.

Learn that God relates to you through the New Covenant, through your inheritance in Christ, and that you are essentially a trillionaire princess daughter of the King of the Universe . . . so that you won’t really expect that much of your husband.

Poor guy’s only human after all.