My wife and I have been married for almost 15 years and have three elementary-age kids (two boys and a girl). But we aren’t experts at marriage, parenting, or life by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, we feel like we are just getting started.
Over the past three years, we have had the privilege of sitting down with numerous couples in Clear Creek’s Expectant Parents class. Our conversations have been centered on how we, as followers of Christ, can strengthen our marriages once we bring home that precious new life. These conversations have been refreshing, reminding us of the joy and anticipation we felt entering into the new stage of parenthood. But, they’ve also been humbling, reminding us of our constant shortcomings as spouses and parents.
Here are just two examples of our many mistakes and what we’ve learned through them that we hope will be a blessing to you and your family:
1. Thinking we will outgrow selfishness
When we were first married, we quickly became aware of how selfish we were as individuals. This is no surprise to anyone who is married. No longer could we do things exactly how we liked. We had to make concessions to our preferences, like how to load the dishwasher or how to spend our evenings. But after a few arguments which usually ended in laughter, we quickly adjusted and moved on happily enough. However, when we became parents, we were blindsided by the awareness that we were still so selfish.
Before our first baby was born, we could eat out as often as our budget allowed and watch movies without interruption. Bringing a baby home disrupted the idea that we had outgrown our petty and selfish ways.
As God so often does, he kindly spoke truth to us through his word and through his people in the form of wise counsel. We began to hear him say, as he had when we first followed him, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). We were again reminded that our Father had called us to love and serve his family and our little family as well.
As our babies turned into toddlers, who turned into preschoolers, we would hear ourselves say quite often to them, “You don’t always get what you want,” or “You can’t have it all. You have to share.” Those words, spoken daily to a four-year-old regarding a Goldfish snack or an eight-year-old regarding device time, are the same words that we hear our Father speak to us as parents.
Each day we get to choose whether we will scream like the four-year-old who does not get her Goldfish or whether we will let go of our expectations and follow him.
2. Thinking we will lead our kids spiritually without being intentional
At the time our first baby was born, we were both connected at church, attending small group, and serving to lead unchurched people to be fully devoted followers of Christ. If we had been asked about our priorities in raising our newborn, sharing God’s grace and love with him would have been at the top of the list.
By the time our third child was born, we were in the same position, actively engaging with our Top Five and leading a small group. However, something was different in our home. All of a sudden, and before we realized it, our children could walk, talk, understand, and engage.
We realized that we had spent years talking around our kids about God and his work in our lives, but we hadn’t been intentional about talking to our kids about God and his work in our lives.
For years we had hosted small groups every week in our home both for high school students and for adults. But, for our children, the extent of their small group experience was the frantic cleaning of our home the minutes before guests arrived, the shoving of them into their rooms, and the fleeting aroma of snacks which they rarely tasted.
Once again, God, in his kindness, showed us that we needed to be intentional in discipling our kids if we were going to raise them in a way that demonstrated he was important to us. Discipleship would not happen on its own.
We realized that each day, we can let the moments slide past all too quickly, or we can choose to set aside time to intentionally lead and disciple our children.
We continue to be witnesses to these daily mistakes as well as many others in our own parenting. We humbly recognize that without consistent and daily prayer as a couple, we will fall into the traps of selfishness and of unintentionality.
In our class, we have shared our stories of arguments, fears, mishaps, and frustrations with expectant couples, in hopes that our stories would bring encouragement to people approaching their own parenting adventures.
One of the things we have learned, and continue to learn, is that parenting is refining. We, as parents, have made, and continue to make, mistakes. We are continually reminded of the call to repent and believe the good news of Jesus Christ. Even through the difficulties of parenting, God is drawing us to himself and giving us rest in the work he has already performed.
- Mistakes We’ve Made and Lessons We’ve Learned as Parents - November 10, 2020