Court’s right—we’re guilty as charged. We’re bad parents, not just on the level Court was talking about of cultural expectations, but also on the level of God’s expectations. I’m not just talking about God’s “standards for parenting” (we’ll deal with that some other time), but God’s standards for every person. The fact is, it really doesn’t matter that we stand guilty before the world for our parenting. Culture changes. Parenting trends change.
But all of us have some mental picture of what the perfect parent looks like which functions as the standard of how we measure success in our parenting efforts. This can look pretty different from person to person, but the general idea is the same. Whether we spend a lot of time thinking about it or not, we’re all working with a model which we use as a gauge to see how good or bad we’re doing at this whole parenting thing.
Do y’all remember those cheesy WWJD Bracelets that passed through in the 90’s? (That’s “What Would Jesus Do?” for those of you who managed to somehow miss this pervasive phenomenon.) They were supposed to be a personal reminder before doing or saying anything to ask “What would Jesus do?” Though these days I suspect it was used more like Jon Acuff says in his book Stuff Christians Like as a way to tell other people you were a Christian without actually working up the courage to, well, just tell people that you were a Christian—it was theoretically about trying to be like Jesus.
But here’s the rub: JESUS NEVER SINNED. I already have. A lot. And I’m going to more today. And I will tomorrow. And if I’m still alive, I will when I’m eighty. I’m not EVER going to be able to be like Jesus. Ever.
What about striving toward self-betterment and all that? It’s a lot like my six-year-old son striving to be seven-feet-tall. He can work on it and hope for it and pray for it, but genetically he just doesn’t have it (personally, I’ll be proud if he manages to cross the Bell 5’10” genetic barrier). Striving to be like Jesus is not like solving a really hard math equation or mastering a killer Chopin Sonata—you may not get it at first, but after lots of effort it finally comes together. Trying to be like Jesus just isn’t like that.
Jesus didn’t die on the cross and rise from the dead so that I could become a better, happier person. He didn’t die so that I would then purge all of my sin and be perfect. He died to take away my sin forever, both sins already committed and yet to be committed.
What in the world does this have to do with parenting? Most parents I know are trying to apply a “WWJD Principle” to life in general and parenting in specific. Even people who don’t believe in Jesus do this. Because WWJD is about trying really, really hard to attain some far-off, impossible standard.
We can’t be like Jesus in our parenting or anywhere else for that matter. He was everything we could never be. And he was the Son of God, which no amount of awesome quiet times and worshipful experiences or really intense efforts to stop messing up is going to replicate. At best, we can be kinda sorta like Jesus, which really just misses the point altogether since Jesus was the Lamb of God, without stain or blemish of sin.
So, what are we trying to do as parents, if not be like Jesus? I’ll pick that up Monday.