by Rosie Adle
I haven’t changed the sheets on the bunk beds for over a month.
I totally forgot to send the craft supplies for my kid’s classroom party.
I let my toddler eat Fruit Loops in church–off the floor even.
When you follow up these statements with “I’m a bad parent,” you sell yourself short.
Aside from God the Father Himself, every parent is a bad parent, but not for the reasons you may think. The candy-coated confessions we swap with other playground parents make us look way better than we are.
Martin Luther explained, “Sins that we invent ourselves are stupid sins. God’s compassion isn’t concerned with made-up sins. They must be real sins—such as not fearing, trusting, or believing God, not loving your neighbor, not praying, not listening to sermons, not doing what the law of Moses commands. In other words, real sins break God’s law, which no one can ignore. These are the sins that require genuine forgiveness, not meaningless forgiveness… So we must guard against real sins. But it’s also to real sinners that the gospel reaches out” (Luther’s Works, American Edition, v. 23, pg. 316).
Better questions to ask
When we reflect upon our sins as parents, we do better for ourselves and our children to scoot past the silliness. Rather than asking precisely where the sugar gram count stands or the screen-time meter sits, we might ask these questions:
Do I trust God fully with the life of my child?
Do I thank God for making me a parent?
Do I work diligently at my responsibilities as a steward of the gift of my child?
Do I love my child with the love of the Lord? Even when angry, frustrated, or scared?
Do I pray for my child every day?
Do I go to church with my child every week? (Except the positive strep test weeks, please!)
Do I see how my keeping (/breaking) of the Commandments affects my child?
Asking these things, we see that we are, in fact, bad parents but not for the surface-scratching jokey jokes. We are bad parents because we’re sinners and this plays out in all of our God-given vocations.
God isn’t tallying Fruit Loops consumed or bed linens laundered, but for real sins, there’s a real eye on the situation and a real Savior! Our Lord forgives us for our failings as moms and dads. He forgives us and He frees us for a new day, every day.
Colossians 3:12–15 reminds us: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
Deaconess Rosie Adle is an online instructor for the distance deaconess program of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind. She is co-author of LadyLike: Living Biblically.