Well, that escalated quickly.
I wrote an article last week called When Your Kids Won’t Bow to Your Idols, and it kind of got a lot of attention. As in 42,000 shares and 135,000 views kind of attention.
A professional, business-savvy person would proceed with writing today’s blog as if her posts always get that many views. “Nothing to see here. No big deal. Just another day at the office, because my writing gets this much traffic all the time. You should read all my stuff since I am highly successful. Obviously.” Because I’m neither professional nor business-savvy, I can unashamedly tell you that my blog has never, EVER gotten as many reads as this post has gotten. Not even in the same ballpark, galaxy, or stratosphere. Even at the height of our immigration debacle when thousands were praying our little girl home, the hits did not even come close.
Conversation in my living room:
Me: “I can’t believe how many people have read this article!”
Son: “That’s really weird, Mom. It’s not like it’s the best thing you’ve ever written. I mean, if it was your poop soup post that went viral, then yeah, I get it. But one on parenting? Come on…”
He so loves to humble me. And he does have a point there—my poop soup story is some of my finest work. But that’s not the one that went viral. A parenting blog about idolatry did.
I’ve been asking myself all week, why? Why this post? Why now?
The comments have been telling.
Some people shared how my article gave them new insight and led to some deep soul-searching.
“This. This is what I needed to hear today.”
“Jesus, forgive me for making my reputation and my children’s behavior idols in my life…”
Others were filled with so much hope you could almost hear the chains breaking off their hearts:
“During our long journey through infertility, I bargained with God. ‘If you grant this one thing, I will be grateful in all the late nights and long days.’ Oh how this miracle monster has humbled me to the core….The guilt and shame that have traveled with me in this parenting journey are overwhelming to say the least. It feels paralyzing…and isolating. This article pours water into my parched soul, reminding me of His unconditional love and unending grace.”
And then others, regret. These are the comments that made me cry.
“Tears. I wish I had read this 20 years ago.”
“Sadly, I’m that parent who insisted that my children bow to my idols. I had well-behaved kids, but at what cost?”
Why was an article on idols in parenting read 135,000 times and counting? I can’t know for sure, but my guess is that thousands upon thousands of parents are struggling behind closed doors—maybe even drowning—and are in desperate need of hope. We know what kind of parents we want to be and we see the kind of parents we actually are, and the gap is often wide. “There’s a lot of yelling in my house,” a friend confided. She spoke with shame in her voice, eyes averted. She felt like she was the only one.
In an age where endless information is at our fingertips, when we have more parenting “tools” than ever, we feel anxious. Or angry. Or condemned by the endless parenting blogs/articles/books that tell us to do it this way and not that way. We feel crushed by expectations—imposed on us by society, and ourselves.
Maybe for the first time, many of you were confronted with the truth that A+B will not always equal C, no matter how hard you try. No matter how many books you read. In fact, maybe you realized that “I’ll just try harder” is a dead end street. Maybe for the first time you saw the anger, the knots in your stomach, the frustrations for what they are—not necessarily responses to difficult circumstances (and we all know that parenting can be a TOUGH GIG), but a revealing of our hearts that tend to worship control, comfort, and convenience. Success. Accolades for a job well done. For a lot of you, this revelation made my article painful to read. I get that. It was difficult for me to write, because it brought to light my own idolatry, practiced just that morning. And afternoon. And evening.
Many have asked, “Okay, I see how I’m worshipping idols, and it’s clear that it is affecting my kids, but it is so deeply ingrained in me. I’ve been stuck here for so long. How do I change?”
My friend Julie Sparkman and I actually wrote a book that speaks directly to this—Unhitching From the Crazy Train: Finding Rest in a World You Can’t Control, due to release in March. If my post resonated with you, then this book is a must-read. Besides the Bible, God has used this material more than any other book to set me, a controlling Pharisee, free. Over and over again. I wish I could offer it to you today, but alas, you have to wait til March.
In the meantime, my answer to “What do I do now?” is simple—maybe simpler than you’d like it to be: Repent, believe, and fight. Every day, all day long. Pastor Bob Flayhart calls these three steps “The Christian Waltz.” This is the cycle of every Christian—not once for salvation, but moment-by-moment in everything from the big challenges to the small irritations of life. It looks something like this:
You lose your mind when your child disobeys/doesn’t listen/is disrespectful, etc. You repent—not just of yelling, but of loving something more than your child—peace, maybe? Respect? Compliance? You repent of loving these things more than God. Then you receive His forgiveness and choose to believe Him when He says that He loves you and will provide every single thing you need to love your child well. Then you fight like crazy to walk in obedience to the calling He has given you as that child’s parent. And then, you repeat when you fail again. It may be two minutes later. But you cry out for rescue again, and slowly, slowly, slowly, your heart will change. When the heart changes, behavior is close behind. And you dance the waltz until you’re safely Home.
This waltz applies across all aspects of our lives, but since my previous blog was specifically about parenting, some of you may be asking, “But what if my kids are grown?” Many of you are empty nesters. Your kids have launched and there is no re-do for their childhood. Maybe you read my article through glassy eyes, thinking, “I wish I had done it differently….” Please, please hear me say: There is grace for you. Overwhelming, abounding grace. The wonderful thing about parenting is that our kids have a Father who loves them perfectly, all the time. Every single one of us will reflect on our kids’ childhood with some form of pain or regret, because it is impossible for us to love them well all the time. There is grace for that. God is so much bigger than our mistakes, and He is faithful to parent our kids well even when we fall flat on our faces. Repeatedly.
Grace never runs out. Parents of grown kids who feel they blew it; parents of toddlers who just yelled five minutes ago because you could not take the whining one more second; parents of teens who are wondering, “Have I run out of time?” There is grace for you. He is at work, even in our mistakes.
Here’s how I know God uses our frailty, our humanity, our broken offerings for His glory: He took a blog post that I almost didn’t write because I was so very tired from parenting and life—a collection of notes, really, from a parenting talk neither I nor my husband felt qualified to give—and used it to encourage 135,000 of you. When I am weak, then He is strong.
Praying you walk in freedom today…
P.S. Three studies I highly recommend are Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller, Idol Addiction by Julie Sparkman, and Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Change Your Family by Paul Tripp. These three authors have been incredibly instrumental in helping me understand my own idolatry and learn how to walk in the gospel moment-by-moment.
Have you read my books? I think maybe you should.