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We pretend that it doesn’t exist, competition between families, but it does.  It SO does!  I’m convinced that it is the invisible wedge that most hinders children and youth ministries today and prevents true community in the Church. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, most of us parents keep a running tally of how we are doing in comparison to other parents, leading us to put undue and unrealistic pressure on ourselves and our children to perform rather than live out our faith in a sincere and organic way.  I think we (I’m in this, too!) would all do well to adhere to rule number six in the Parenting Short List.

6. Don’t take too much credit for your child’s successes or too much blame for your child’s mistakes.

We may be the primary influence in our children’s lives, but we are not the only influence (even if we try hard to make it that way).  Add free will to the equation, and it seems silly for anyone to think that everything their child does is a direct result of something they have or haven’t said or have or haven’t done.

We must remember two things:

1)      God made our children.  We are the pen and paper.  Our genes are the ink and texture, but God is the artist who uses these tools to create masterpieces designed to bring Him glory.

2)      We live in a broken world, and our children (just like us) are born with a predisposition to sin.  The enemy, disguised as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), is really good at capitalizing on that predisposition, so we all make mistakes from time to time.

To gauge our success on something that we ultimately have little control over is to weigh ourselves on a variable and inaccurate scale and skew our self-image.  We will either come away from doing so with an over-inflated ego or a timid and insecure spirit, neither of which honor God.

So how do we gauge our success as parents?  In parenting, just as in everything else, success is found in complete submission and obedience to the Father.  When we seek His wisdom, heed His counsel, and trust Him with the results (even when we can’t see them in real time), giving God glory for every shining moment and lifting every failure to Him in prayer, we model for our children the very faith that we hope they will adopt one day.  We win!  But perhaps even more importantly, we win with an appropriate level of confident humility.

Parents, it is so important for us to remember that we are on the same team.  We may come at this parenting game from different backgrounds, with different training and opinions, and having different specialized skill sets, but we all want to raise children whose lives will bring glory and honor to the God we love.  If we take our eyes off of one another and focus more on our common goal, maybe we’ll score more often and with the kind of grace that will inspire others to join the team.

Next time, we’ll talk about guns and sticking to ‘em!