I Was Raised By Wolves

My parents were raised by wolves.

Not wolves, really, but that’s about as much thought as any of the four – no, eight – men and women involved in raising them gave to parenting children (all divorced and remarried or reinvolved). They didn’t read books, attend seminars or invest late nights in assisting with school projects. Their children were lucky to find food on the table and they ate what was there or they risked receiving a swift backhand for complaining.

My parents were raised by sinners but

my mother loves the Lord, is a responsible citizen, employee, loving mother and amazing Bible teacher. My father served in the Marines, built a house, pays his bills, has been a successful, sometimes heroic fire chief for his entire adult life and came around to parenting eventually – once we were grown. He’s working out his relationship with the Lord.

They aren’t perfect but, then, they were raised by wolves.

So was I.

Not wolves, exactly, but my parents were sinners, too. My mother probably read a few books on parenting and we had rules, chore charts and strict bedtimes. But, they had their issues – it was the sixties and seventies – everyone did. Alice didn’t live here anymore and many of our parents didn’t either. There were signs, signs, everywhere signs and there was something going on over there so it was hard to keep it together here and many people didn’t. At least we didn’t move to a commune or Jonestown or the suburbs.

I was raised by sinners who had never heard of family devotions but

I love the Lord. He found me early, reached out His long arm to me through the black and white box in our living room during an altar call by Billy Graham and I prayed a prayer that took. Even with my parents’ minimalist style of child-rearing, I got an education, made it through the psychedelic decades without tuning out or turning on and set out to raise my own family.

I read lots of books.

Boy, did I read books. And they alternately inspired me and depressed me, gave me hope and discouraged my dream that I could be the perfect parent. This new community to which I belonged, evangelical Christians, seemed to feel there were methods, plans and disciplines that would turn babies into believers and I wanted it to be true. So I read more books.

It became a joke around our house. I would employ a new system of family Bible study or a new behavior chart or a study method and one of my children would moan “Did you read a new book?”

I read books and I prayed and I taught my children about Jesus and the Bible and we attended church and I prayed more and we homeschooled and had family nights and made sure they were well-socialized and active at youth group, the Y, karate, and they learned to swim and were taught responsibility and allowed to play and encouraged to create and went camping and on short-term missions and faced natural consequences and they read books and so

my children are perfect Christians, right?

Not quite, see, they were raised by wolves.

Well, not wolves, exactly, but sinners still and while I gave my children more opportunity than I had and than my parents had to know God, sometimes I tried to BE God and certainly that was bound to muck up their spiritual mojo and what I learned in the end was there is no way to raise believers like one raises heirloom tomatoes or prize roses or blue-ribbon cows.

My kids have issues like everyone else because they inherited from their lupine parents a wolfish nature that will run wild in them if they do not choose to submit to God.

It wasn’t by my grandparent’s efforts that my parents came to know Christ. It was downright miraculous.

It was not by my parent’s efforts that I came to know Christ. Also, downright miraculous.

And it’s not by my efforts that my children come to know Christ. It is a bona fide miracle.

For all of us, it was the work of Jesus Christ made known through the power of the Holy Spirit that saved us.

Ephesians 2:8-10 says this: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I can be, in fact I strive to be, a faithful parent but my children’s salvation and the depth of their walks is still in the hands of God.

My efforts at parenting were not worthless in nurturing and disciplining children but they weren’t fool proof for producing people who love and walk with God. I did a better job than my parents and their parents of bringing God into our home but I frequently got in His way and in the end my children’s stories belong to them and will largely be written between them and God.

I’ve got my own story to finish.

My method of parenting was imperfect and labored, well-intentioned but flawed, inspired and faithful but clunky and it came with no guarantees. That’s not how things work this side of glory.

And sometimes we parents judge other parents. But the truth is that even if you are raised by wolves who have become sheep, you’re born a wolf and the sheep are still getting the hang of not running with the pack so we all make mistakes and even when we don’t, we’re still wolves raising baby wolves or new sheep raising wolves and it’s such a messy, imperfect process we shouldn’t judge anyone else who is fumbling through the same effort.

The only way to turn a wolf into a sheep – morph from one creature into a new creation – is by the power of a Holy God and even those new sheep give birth to wolves and the same process must take place – not a method for raising baby wolves into sheep but a miracle, an act of God.

Take my advice, next time you’re up late howling at the moon over your children and wrestling with your parenting methods, try sheepishly dropping to your knees instead. We do the faithful work – but only God holds the key to the magic.

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    The Conversation

  1. Andrea says:

    Thank you so much for this post. My parents were very young when I was born…my grandparents were wonderful Christians and tried to make up the difference. However, they spoiled me and then died when I was a young teen. Then off to live with my parents, again. It was a roller coaster. I have tried desperately to parent my children “correctly”…but as you know, I am still a sinner, saved by grace. I needed to read this, today.
    Blessings, hugs, and prayers,

  2. Andrea, I’m so glad it ministered to you. I was nervous about this post because it’s clunky and, once again, it’s me working out my thoughts in front of -well – everyone. From someone else who tries really hard – God bless.

  3. Love it!
    I knew everything about parenting before I had kids. I was going to be the perfect parent, and I was going to have the perfect children, and I was going to show everybody how it’s done.


    Can’t you just hear God laughing! What an arrogant fool I was. Now I pray daily for that miracle, knowing that my best parenting is pretty poor stuff, and even if it were perfect, it couldn’t save a single child. It’s between them and Him, with me just doing my fumbling best to point the way.

    Lord, please save our unsaved children, and may all of our children draw ever closer to You!

  4. Cheri says:

    You said, “There is no way to raise believers like one raises heirloom tomatoes or prize roses or blue-ribbon cows.”

    Oh, so true. This has now taken first place as my favorite post of yours!! Do you mind if I repost it on my blog?

    Awesome job!

    Cheri – another of God’s little helpers =)

  5. Amen, Betsy!

    Cheri, re-post away and may God bless others through my bumbling experience!

  6. “My children’s stories belong to them and will largely be written between them and God.”

    What a powerful statement. As a writer, I want to control the outcome of my childrens’ lives like I control the ending of a story. But, you’re right. It’s God’s story to tell. He is the potter. We (and our children!) are just the clay.

    Thank you for such a great post. We’ve had our world turned upside down a bit over here and I’m just getting back into the swing of things.

  7. Barbara says:

    Thank you! Saw this on Glass House Ministries blog. I wanted and expected a perfect family since we said we were both Spirit-filled Christians. But we both still had a dual nature, and at times were more wolf-ish than sheep-ish. Our children turned out to love God and people, but it was only His doing. They also have some wolf-ish traits, but God is still at work, especially as I pray. I am now praying for unborn grandkids!

  8. Welcome, Barbara. One day, we’ll know what it is to lose these wolfish natures forever!