“Things were in God’s plan, which I had not planned at all. I am coming to the living faith and conviction that – from God’s point of view – there is no chance and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God’s divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God’s all-seeing eyes.”
These are the words of the eloquent St. Edith Stein, who was a Jewish convert and Auschwitz concentration camp victim.
While her life was tremendously more sorrow-filled than mine, her words resonate with my understanding of God’s control over my life. Everything is in His view; from conception until death, He has known my every move, thought, and reaction. Furthermore, He has brought good out of all things, even my mistakes, so that I might know Him and live with Him for eternity, where my mistakes will be no more.
Unfortunately, at times I can place too much emphasis on my mistakes, especially concerning my role as a father. However, I continue to remember and understand that God is in control. His Providence will even allow my bad parenting mistakes to be avenues that bring my children to Him.
As a self-diagnosed overzealous parent, I recognize that I want a lot for my kids and their futures. Furthermore, right now, I want a lot for them in regard to their happiness and proper understanding of the world around them. But, most of all, I want them to have an amazing relationship with Jesus and avoid all the problems I experienced.
My dream for my kids, like any parent, is for them to be happy. I aim to help them to discover this happiness through my relationship with them and the standard rules my wife and I put in place to help safeguard their innocence and develop their decision-making abilities. Unfortunately, I am very much imperfect and find myself making mistakes here and there as a parent. I commit what I call “dad fails” regularly. However, I am growing as a person each day in my understanding that God is at work and can even work through my imperfect parenting.
By all means, I am not quitting my role as a parent, but I notice how much emphasis I have placed on “my work” to raise my children. I am not saying I should quit caring and let my kids do whatever they want under the guise of my trust that God will handle it. He still wants my participation. However, I need to worry less about those times when I fall far from the image of fatherhood that I would like and trust that God is ultimately in control of my children’s lives. All I can do is model for them the loving relationship with Him that I would like for them to have, protect them from evil, and love them unconditionally, making sure that they know they are loved unconditionally.
Essentially, the only power we have is to say yes to God’s plan for us. I know the deep joy and love one has when this beautiful acceptance takes place, and want my kids to know it as well. We cannot get caught up in the superficial or silly complexities of the mundane day-to-day that can weigh us down.
For example, when we finally have had enough of the whining and we do not speak in the tone of voice with which, we imagine, Joseph and Mary always spoke to Jesus. Or that time my family and I were watching The Nativity Story with our 3-year-old, and a very intense birth scene came up. There are those many other times of guilt when we think we are messing up as parents in some way that we should overcome with trust in God’s love for us.
We have a perfect Father in Heaven who can make up for our imperfections. We know that our kids deserve Jesus and they can have Him. All that we can do is our best to help them come to know Him. And truly, Jesus knows that on our own we can never be perfect, but with God all things are possible. Therefore, instead of seeking perfection, we can seek Jesus, who will lead us to perfection.
God’s Providence means that only good comes out of all things for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Therefore, if we truly love Him, and our kids know this, then we have nothing to worry about with our parenting. True love of God would mean we are trying our best as parents anyway, so if we are truly seeking the Lord and what is best for our children, He will take of us!
Although, we cannot drop the ball either. As parents we are the primary educators of our children and so we must take seriously our role as parents to shape our children. Just as our kids learn to walk and talk by being around us, they will also pick up a love of Christ and others through our witness. Moreover, just as we teach them to read and write, we should teach them how to pray and know about their faith so they can make it their own.
A classic quote from St. Augustine is, “we must work as if everything depends upon us and pray as if everything depends upon God.” This fits perfectly into the task of parenting in that we must take it seriously and strive to give our children the best life of holiness, but remember that God is the One who is in control, and He is most faithful. Keeping in mind that His desire for my kids to know Him and love Him is greater than mine brings me great peace. Furthermore, it helps me the get over the many mistakes I make as a father, as I know that God is bringing good from them for both my and my children’s well-being.