What did I do wrong? It’s the question we moms ask ourselves when our children sin. And if we aren’t ourselves wondering, we know that someone, somewhere, has answered the question for us. Someone’s out there cataloguing our shortcomings, and tsk-tsking at our spectacular failures. Jerks.
Here’s the trouble with kids: God gives ‘em free will.
I know. I hate it too. I keep asking God to take mine back. I’d be quite happy to be a sinless automaton, thank you very much. Apparently that’s not the method that will lead to our ultimate happiness, because God keeps insisting I grow up and develop a little self-discipline. The cost of that free will is the risk that I, and you, and our children, are not always going to freely choose to do what is right.
Human freedom is called radical freedom for a reason. The risks are bigger than just me slacking off about housework. Some of the dangers are already imprinted on our children, utterly inescapable.
When Adam and Eve fell, the world fell with them. I’ve got a bank account, and if I spend all my money foolishly, there’ll be none left for my kids. I’ve got a driver’s license, and if I don’t pay attention on the road, I can kill not just myself, but anyone in my path. We each have little parts of the world that we “lord” over. Our domain. Adam and Eve were given dominion over the whole earth. When they fell, the evil they committed harmed not just themselves, but everything God had given them.
What does this mean for your kid? Schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, alcoholism . . . you name it, someone’s gonna get it. Could be your child. Could be you. These disorders are not the fault of personal sin, of something you or I or your child did. They are the fault of original sin, that first spiritual sin of Adam and Eve that broke the world. If your child is on a self-destructive mission because of a mental illness beyond his control . . . it’s beyond his control. And beyond your control.
God is aware of this. He has a back-up plan. He’s not out to play “gotcha”. Or rather, it’s a different kind of “gotcha”: God has His sights on your child, and will do everything He can to get your child into Heaven. Including making up the difference for your child’s genuine inability to know right from wrong, or to resist irresistible urges.
What about the sins we freely choose? Brutal honesty time: Not every sin is due to mental illness, just like not every injury is due to physical illness. Your child can choose to do wrong. You and I, as hard as we try to be good parents, are also capable of choosing to sin, and harming our children in the process. It’s a lucky kid who escapes childhood with just one or two minor bad habits learned from Mom and Dad. Good news: Once again, there’s a back-up plan. Genesis isn’t the end of the story, it’s only the beginning.
What to do? Apologize for your faults and sins, and ask God for help in overcoming them. We can’t teach our kids how to be sinless, but we can show them how to repent. Even if you’re 80-something years old, and crusty and cranky and bitter, it’s not too late to do the turn-around. Look towards God, and point your children and grandchildren in that direction. Apologize to your children for your sins, and pray for them when they sin. None of us are immaculate, but all of us can be redeemed.
Our Lord desperately wants you and your children with Him in Heaven for all eternity. He won’t force it on you. We can choose to reject Him. But use that free will to give Him even the tiniest opening, and He’ll stretch out his arms and make up the difference.
Copyright 2012 Jennifer Fitz