Mothers tend to take on themselves the shame of the sins and mistakes of their children. If we are not caught in the cycle of blaming other people and seeing only their sin and the effects of that sin on our children, then we are often taking upon ourselves the blame for the choices our children make. As I have been a long-distance witness to the suffering of another family, God has continued to show me some truths.
There was a time when my self-contempt was fed on a daily basis by my taking on myself the responsibility for the disastrous decisions my children made. Had I failed to love them enough? Had I failed to teach right from wrong? Had I failed to show them Jesus? Had I failed to protect? And the honest answer is, YES, I did sometimes fail. Yes, sometimes I needed to repent. Yes, I was never perfect in my mothering. I am still never perfect in my mothering. I don’t need to be. Jesus is enough, and in the sovereign grace of God, my sins and even the sins of my children can be redeemed.
Another thought that has become clear for me as I have prayed for this other family’s situation, is that my children as just as accountable to God as I am. My children are responsible for their own decisions. Following close on the heels of that was this one: My children need Jesus just as much as I do. If I am a sinner saved by grace, why do I expect that my children are not the same? In Making Peace with Your Past, one of the concepts drilled into me was this: I am not responsible for another person’s feelings, thoughts or actions. Not even my children’s feelings, thoughts and actions.
And to extend that further: my children bring other people into their (and our) lives. Spouses, significant others (future spouses), grandchildren. Our oldest son made disastrous decisions–actions that affected and hurt (physically and emotionally) so many people. I spent a lot of time wallowing in the pit of “what did I do wrong?” Eventually, I realized that he was responsible for his actions. No matter how flawed my parenting was, he, like all people, was subject to the law of God imprinted on his heart. We like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way. There is none righteous, no not one. (Isaiah 53:6 and Romans 3:10) Disastrous things continued to happen when he brought in a wife, who became the mother of his child, and then became his estranged wife….and maybe even his ex wife (we don’t actually know for sure.) What do we do when we see disastrous decisions being made? Judge? Or love? My challenge was to forgive and love him. And then to forgive and love her. For us, that has meant loving from afar…yes, it is possible to do such a thing. And more than just loving from afar, we have the desire to be reconciled in God’s time.
It is so hard to be at the crossroad of self-blame and allowing our children to stand on their own. It is hard to love unconditionally when we see so much for which to blame. It is hard to separate the person and the action. But I come back to this truth over and over again. Jesus died for me when I was yet a sinner–when I was his enemy! Jesus commands me to love–loving is not the same as accepting sin–but when Jesus dealt with sinners, he always saw the person under the behavior. It is not up to me to forgive their sin. It is not up to me to take responsibility for their sin. That is Jesus’ job. It is simply my job to love people where they are…whether it be my children, their spouses, and even their ex-spouses.
There was a time when I dealt with the shame of false guilt. I took on myself all the wrongs my children committed or suffered as if I were their personal messiah and could right all the wrongs if I just felt guilty enough. And then I began to see that as the idolatry that it is. The real trick was to separate the false guilt from the real guilt. And then to repent of those things for which I did bear responsibility, followed by the receiving of grace to walk in forgiveness. Sometimes I had to repeat that process day-by-day, hour-by-hour and even minute-by-minute. Repent, receive, walk. Over and over again. Living a life of repentance requires separation between the true and the false guilt.
I need eyes to see the people who are hurting. I need eyes to see my own sin. And I need eyes to see the things that are NOT mine to bear. I have to start with seeing Jesus clearly where He belongs…and that is hard to do when I am on the throne of my own heart. But when I do see Him clearly, the rest falls into place.