Three tweets in my Twitter feed caught my attention recently. The first was a link to “the 10 top ways to ruin your child for life.” There was a time when I’d have been all over a list like this–to be sure I wasn’t making any of those mistakes.
Control Freak Parenting
The second tweet came from a friend who is raising four children. It said, “I’m thankful that whatever I do or don’t do with my children today won’t add or take away from (God’s) plan for them.” I wish I’d understood this truth long before I finally did. It would have saved me a lot of guilt, and my kids a lot of control freak parenting.
Control Freak Counseling
The same motive that once drew me to parenting lists also drew me to biblical counseling systems. I used to believe that my job as a biblical counselor was to teach my counselees the right biblical principles, so they could follow them. If they did, they’d stop “ruining their (kids, marriages, selves) for life” (tweet #1) and experience “Christian victory.”
I also thought their improvement depended upon my skill in finding and teaching the right principles. If they didn’t do well, it was my fault (tweet #2). Yep, I was a control freak counselor.
Learning To Pray
The third tweet that drew my attention this morning was a quote from Abraham Lincoln: “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” I saw a picture of Mr. Lincoln on TV yesterday, and was struck anew by the evidence of suffering etched on that craggy face. If Honest Abe was anything like me, he learned to pray when he discovered that he wasn’t as righteous or wise as he’d thought he was, and that he wasn’t in control at all.
The Lord has been driving me to my knees in recent years. All of my brilliant systems have broken down one by one. I’ve realized how little I really know, and how lost I am apart from God’s wisdom. In short, I’ve had to learn to pray (tweet #3).
More Than Lists And Systems
By “pray,” I don’t mean keeping an extensive prayer list and reciting it faithfully. I can do lists. In fact, I love them. Lists make me feel diligent, righteous, in control. No, I mean grappling honestly before the Lord over the most deeply entrenched idols of my heart: my children and my counselees. God is etching the evidence of suffering on my own face as I’ve begun to learn in the crucible of experience the truth I’ve believed intellectually for so long: Apart from Christ, I can do nothing (John 15:5).
As I wrestle in greater honesty before the Lord, I’m learning to approach suffering people (which includes my kids!) with greater openness about my own fallibility, and point them to the True Source of wisdom. Rather than trying to dispense it, I’m seeking to teach others to look to Christ for it themselves.
Lists and Systems Have Value
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not sniping at the author of the “10 ways” list, or at those who use prayer lists or counseling systems. Wisdom comes to us in many forms. A memorable list can keep us from falling into common parenting mistakes. Many of us need more discipline in our prayer lives. And we certainly can’t use the Bible in counseling if we don’t know the verses and passages in their context.
Where Is My Confidence?
The real issue is: where am I placing my hope? Because I’m a control freak, I feel safest when my confidence is in myself. But the gospel calls me to believe in God’s loving commitment to me and to place my full confidence in its truth, instead of in my ability to bring about the results I want to see. In fact, God’s purposes may require that I not achieve the results I’m hoping for.