“Maybe we should have….”
Parents and others who work with young adults find themselves occasionally uttering these words while talking about how the ‘kids are turning out.’ Our brood of five grew up in the same crib, same sets of hands changing diapers, same set of anxious eyes waiting for them to come home late at night; still each is at a different place in their spiritual journey. Regret can slip in while thinking about how we could have done things differently. But is there room in God’s economy for second-guessing?
The short answer is no. Children are conceived, and born already bent—tragically marred by the systemic nature of sin. The best we can do as parents, or youth leaders is to try and bend them back to godliness, bend them away from their tendency of selfishness, bend them toward discipline and character, by our prayers, our example and our discipline.
Bend them? Yes, because with any other view, we risk thinking we really do shape the destiny of those we lead, rather than the grace of God. Grace comes in many forms, not all of them to celebrate. Sometimes they come in the form of hard seasons where He’s doing the hidden work of preparation, separation, or sanctification.
What do we do if we feel our attempt at bending has been less than successful? We thank God He’s not finished with the bend. Remember, we have children approximately a quarter of an average life span. Not to minimize this effort, but a quarter of a lifetime is not long enough to complete the bend in anyone. We will always send them into the world needing more bend, so we must trust that God has bigger and perhaps more noble plans waiting after they leave our care.
So, if you’ve done everything family experts, your pastor, or your small group leader have told you to do, and still your ‘little rascals’ remain unbent, what then? In this case, surrender. When we hold on to regret we are telling God that His grace cannot, or will not touch our pain. Pride keeps a hold on regret, and surrender releases it. When we can rise above regret, we use our energy to ask God to do what only He can do in the lives of those we love.