When I look back over the 25+ years that we were raising our sons, I see a lot of grace. I see a lot of hard work. I see a lot of blood, sweat and tears. I see a lot of God.
But I also see a lot of fear...fear of man (and woman).
If there is one thing I would do differently, it would be to let go of my concern (fear) about what others think of my sons and what they think of my parenting, and ultimately, what they think of me.
Fear of God sets us free. Fear of man enslaves and cripples and weakens.
I regret how many times I chose the path others said (or didn't say, but communicated in other ways) I should take rather than the path that was best for my sons. This happened in big ways, but mostly in hundreds of daily and mundane choices.
Early on I was so concerned that my sons "looked" like they had it all together that I didn't want their messiness to show. Because their messiness would be seen as my messiness. Or so I thought. Never mind that I had a boatload of my own messiness already.
In countless little ways I communicated that the "outside" was what mattered. And if the outside looked good, the inside would obediently follow along. Little did I understand in those early years, that I was also communicating that we don't really need a Savior. We can wash ourselves up and present ourselves as having it all together, and somehow that would be enough.
Oh, the freedom that comes (following repentance) from recognizing the sin and pride that drive our fear. To see that our need for grace and deep change is on the inside. To understand that Jesus looks at the heart, not the shiny outside.
To let go of what others think and to keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith--and of our children's faith! To be free from the compulsion to exhibit fruit that isn't quite developed yet. To have faith that the fruit will come.
When our children know they are free to be "real," to let us see what's really in their hearts and on their minds, then we have the opportunity to deeply know them. If they see that we can't handle the messy stuff, they will usually try to keep it hidden. This might make us feel comfortable in the short-term, but it isn't healthy.
We want our homes to be a place where the gospel is preached everyday through the way we live. And what is the gospel? That we are all quite a mess and in need of a Savior. That we don't have what it takes on our own, but that we have all the resources we need in Christ. That being honest about our need and our messiness is the only sane thing to do. That repentance and forgiveness bring healing and restoration. That there is joy and freedom in the process when we aren't caught up in looking like someone we aren't.
These are things that we want our kids to learn early. Otherwise, they will limp along like we have as adults, trying to unlearn the unhealthy and grasp the grace of God. God has given you your children. Ask Him for His heart for them and grace to give them what they really need--truth, grace, and lots and lots of unconditional love.