How Indwelling Sin Affects My Parenting

There’s no denying it. I’m a sinner.  I’m saved by the grace of God and by the blood of His Lamb, but my sin nature still holds power of me in insidious ways.  Every time I think I might be breaking free, I find a stronghold that I hadn’t even considered existed.

This continued journey towards sanctification unfolds continually as I struggle to uproot sin in my life and my flesh struggles to cling to it. I have the ability to avoid sin and it’s power over me, but some days I’m sunk before I ever get out of bed.

The only answer, of course, is to constantly to cling to God’s word and to continue always in prayer. To choose to do acts of righteousness and avoid sin. To submit my will to God.

I’m being totally transparent here when I say that it’s a struggle. A daily struggle.

However, I don’t always share that struggle with my children. Instead, I find myself holding myself up as a self-righteous example of perfection that I expect them to follow.  Jesus has a word for that in the Bible.  He would call me a hypocrite. See Matthew 23 if you have any doubts.

How do I find myself acting like a hypocrite or a super-religious, self-righteous pharisee?

First, I find myself being hypercritical and pointing out each flaw that my children have. Yet, I ignore that same flaw in myself.  Ugly tones of voice and unkind speaking in my children often inspire me to the same ugly tones and unkindness in my correction. No wonder my kids are confused.

I often assume that if someone is handling something wrong in the house that it’s my children. Guess what?  It’s not always the children.  I just can’t seem to acknowledge my own need for Jesus.

I often focus on the children’s outward behavior instead of reaching their hearts.  I fight sin from the outside in, and as everyone knows we must “cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” (Matthew 23:26)

If, instead, I could just admit to them that I have a problem with sin, this is what I would do:

  • I would not act shocked and horrified at my children’s sin.  Instead, I would expect their sin.  I wouldn’t overreact (in an often sinful manner) to their sins.
  • I would remember that their enemy is inside them.  Often, the my first response to my child’s sin is to ask “Where did you learn that?”.  They don’t need anyone to teach them to sin.  It’s what comes naturally.
  • I would remember that even a child who is well-behaved on the outside will be dealing with sin on the inside.  My personally most heinous sins are the pride and self-righteousness that is so often buried deep within.  Why would I not expect them to struggle?
  • I would not be so quick to make excuses and defend when someone tells me about my child’s misbehavior.  I would not let it make me feel like a bad parent. I would just use it as a place to discuss with my child how their sin is visible to those around them.
  • I would be honest about my own pull toward sin and affirm them that they will be pulled toward sin too.  Just because my child has been saved, it doesn’t mean that they will never be pulled into sin, and feeling that pull should not give them doubts about their salvation.  I know my eldest especially struggles with his temper making him feel that he is not saved, but if he could see his struggles from my point of view, he would never doubt his salvation and his earnest wrestling with God again.
  • I would make it to where my children could confess their sins to me without fear of my condemnation. I’ve been the world’s worst mom to try to get my children to tell me what’s on my heart, and then for me to lecture and condemn them for what they have told me.
  • I would be more proactive in setting up safeguards in places where there’s a pull towards secret sin (such as the internet) because I know that the flesh is only so strong and has only so much will power.
  • I would deal with my sin and help my children to deal with their own sins while the actions and deeds are small before it can grow (James 1:15)
  • I would help my children to understand the power of the Holy Spirit.  We would learn together to lean on His power in our lives to put our sins to death.
  • I would not let my guard down for myself or for my children, but I would put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6) each day and teach my children to do likewise.

So, this is my super-long list for battling indwelling sin in my life and in helping my children to do battle with it.  One of my favorite Sally Clarkson quotes is when she’s talking about her frustration with her children’s behavior and her husband stops her and asks her “So, when did you stop sinning?”  As a parent, I need that reminder each time I find myself feeling harassed and unhappy with my child’s sin instead of using it as a teaching opportunity.

Each time I find myself surprised and annoyed by my child’s sin, I am treating them as if I’m less sinful than them, as if I think I’m better.  In pride, maybe sometimes my sin makes me feel like I’m better.

I am thankful to Chap Bettis’s book The Disciple-Making Parent.  This post is about me working out and responding to some of Bettis’s writing about dealing with indwelling sin in parenting and with his ideas about how often parents act like pharisees in their parenting. I stand convicted by both ideas, and decided to take some time to work through these ideas, and realized that if I posted them on my blog, they might be a help to others.

Another post I wrote a few years ago that deals with some of the same ideas is A Little Sin, and you might find it helpful if you’re struggling with your own sin in parenting.

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4 thoughts on “How Indwelling Sin Affects My Parenting

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