We were talking about their children, all of whom are either adult or almost adult, who have made some choices that are not what either mother wanted for their kids.What is success? If you’ve read me for very long, you can probably guess I’m not looking for the easy answer. Lots of things spring to my mind when I think of success, but all of them leave me unsettled. Even the more biblical answers.

What got me considering all of this was a couple of very different discussions with a couple of very different friends. We were talking about their children, all of whom are either adult or almost adult, who have made some choices that are not what either mother wanted for their kids. The paths for each are also very different, but the consequences for each mother was eerily the same: heartbreak, disappointment, and an intense feeling of being a terrible parent.

Grappling with Parental Success

We never know the love of a parent till we become parents ourselves. ~Henry Ward Beecher

So, what do you say makes a successful parent? Responsible adult children?

But I wonder at kids like Michael Oher whose story was told in the 2009 movie The Blind Side. His mother was an alcoholic and crack cocaine addict, and his father was frequently in prison. Would you consider them a success because Michael has found great success on the football field and stayed out of the tabloids? His mom had twelve children, so was she successful if only one child grew into responsibility? Or more than half of them? Or only if they all did? Or was she an utter failure because she was caught in addiction?

What if a child has several wild years but turns it around later in life? I think of Franklin Graham, son of Billy and Ruth Graham, who admitted in his 1995 book, Rebel with a Cause, that he was strong-willed and difficult. Does that mean that Billy and Ruth failed, but then succeeded? Or that maybe sometimes we judge too soon whether or not someone’s successfully raised a child?

Other Aspects of the Problem

Were these parents failures?We could discuss far more issues than the obvious two above.

I think of Mary, the mother of Jesus. We know from our position in history that she followed God’s lead in her pregnancy. But did her parents know that? Or the extended family or close neighbors? What if she told her parents, and they believed her? Could they consider themselves a success, knowing that all the neighbors believed differently? Or were they a failure simply because their daughter was pregnant before marriage?

Hosea also comes to mind. God told him to marry a harlot, a prostitute. And Hosea obeyed, not that his marriage was without a plethora of difficulties, including his wife leaving him more than once to return to what she knew. Were his parents successful because they raised a son who obeyed God? How many people (including members of his family) actually believed he was being rash or naive rather than obedient? Were his parents failures because of the turmoil or apparent failure of his marriage?

Parental Success Is Not Easy to Pin Down

The best definition that I’ve come up with for my success as a parent is answering this question for myself: Did I do what God asked me to do?

Sometimes, I did. Occasionally I did, but only after hesitation or outright disobedience. More often than I probably realize, I did not. Does that mean I succeeded? Or failed? Can I put any trust in another’s opinion who may know me well but didn’t live in my house under our set of circumstances? Perhaps I cannot even fully rely on my own memory (as I realize when my husband and I remember an event very differently).

Maybe, we’re asking the wrong questions entirely, focusing on the completely wrong measures.

Think of it this way. When God evaluates my life, will He weigh the good and the bad, giving me points for each, figuring out through simple math whether I passed His test? No, the Bible is clear that’s not the way God handles eternal decisions. Instead, eternity rests on what we decide about Jesus and then our progress in growing to be more like Him.

Can’t we apply the same standard to parenting?

FINAL THOUGHTSGod is working behind the scenes to bring out His character in all of us.

Children are not casual guests in our home. They have been loaned to us temporarily for the purpose of loving them and instilling a foundation of values on which their future lives will be built. ~James Dobson

Many parents will easily admit to failures and shortcomings. It’s easy, maybe for mothers in particular, to worry about our children’s poor choices and reflect those bad decisions back onto ourselves. But I’m not sure that’s fair—to us or our children.

And it’s probably not fair to God who is working behind the scenes to bring out His character in all of us.


Read More

One of the topics we tackle in The Warrior’s Bride is parenting! Military or not, that chapter (and others) would be helpful to anyone wanting to learn more. (And it’s available on eBook, paperback, AND audio!)

The Warrior’s Bride

Warrior's BrideThe call came down from Command, and your warrior husband is out the door, leaving you behind to handle whatever he has left undone. 
Whether it’s the day-to-day monotony, the inevitable appliance that breaks, or the months without his presence beside you, being a military spouse brings challenges few appreciate.

Yet God sees you and longs for you to boldly step into His plan. 
He purposely chose you for this moment—for your man. He wants to give you abundantly more than what you have right now and desires you to thrive as your warrior’s bride.

Join authors and military brides Kathy Barnett and Carrie Daws. 
In their combined thirty-five years of military experience, they boldly discuss some of the most common issues in military families:

  • The Calling of the Warrior
  • The Healthcare System
  • Extended Family
  • Parenting
  • The Fear of Divorce
  • The Fear of Death
  • Pornography
  • Infidelity
  • Living with a Wounded Soul

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