If you asked me, a non-parent, what one thing would help parents do their very difficult job, I would have said something like patience or love or consistency.
Those are good things—needful things, to be sure. But during the summer message series at my church, my pastor mentioned something that I wouldn’t have added to the list.
Wondering how that fits into being a good parent? Well, you can listen to the message in full, but in sum, here’s what I took from the message. My pastor was encouraging parents to deal decisively with their own sin, both present and past, because sin taints us through and through. Past sins haunt us, blocking us from a clear assessment of the present. Sin that isn’t dealt with makes us overly permissive in some situations and overly cautious in others. You can see how this is no good for anyone (not just parents).
The trouble is, too often sin is left to linger. It piles up in the corners of our hearts where it begins to cast an ugly glow on how we live and think and talk and feel. But who wants to look into the dark corners? No one. So we turn our backs on the past and assume we can simply move on.
God is gracious to prick our hearts though, to nudge us to deal with what is growing in the dark. Then we have the option of dealing with it (cleaning out the corner) or turning our backs on the Lord. Sin tells us we are just fine, thank you, but there’s no need to go poking around the edges looking for trouble.
Such a response is itself another byproduct of sin. Sin convinces us we know best. Our hearts harden under the weight of unconfessed sin. We become less and less teachable.
Andrew Murray has this to say about the sort of teachable heart believers need for walking in the light with the Lord:
“Our whole life must be a divine teachableness. . . . Unlearning is often the most important part of learning: wrong impressions, prejudices and prepossessions are insuperable obstacles in the way of learning. Until these have been removed, the teacher labors in vain. The knowledge he communicates only touches the surface: deep under the surface, the pupil is guided by that which has become a second nature to him. The first work of the teacher is to discover, to make the pupil see and remove, these hindrances. There can be no true and faithful learning of Christ where we are not ready to unlearn. . . . To learn of Christ needs a willingness to subject every truth we hold to his inspection for criticism and correction.”
Weighty stuff, huh? Yes, it is. But, the good news is that Jesus invites us to learn of Him because that is the way to freedom and relief.
Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:9, ESV).
Rest for the soul? Yes, I think I’ll take some of that after all. Thank You, Lord.
1. Andrew Murray, The Inner Chamber and the Inner Life (Eremitical Press, 2010), 56–57.