My Kids Are Messed Up and I Did It

My kids are messed up.

My kids are messed up and what really galls me is that it’s my fault.

My brother and I are messed up but there’s good reason for that. My parents made mistakes. They messed us up but that’s okay because I learned from them what not to do.

I looked forward to having children of my own because it was clear to me from an early age what comprised good parenting. My parents got a little off track but that wouldn’t happen to me. Of this, I was certain.

Plus, faith would be the centerpiece of our home. Faith in Jesus Christ. So, this would be great! I mean, I’m not arrogant enough to think I would be a perfect parent or that following Jesus would guarantee me perfect children but we’d hit darn close to the mark, I was pretty sure. Whatever I couldn’t do, Jesus would. It was a perfect plan.

So, when I realized my kids are messed up, it was most disconcerting. How did this happen? What could I have done differently?

I was distraught until my eyes landed on the culprit. The fault in my plan. The foil. Right. Their father.

Clearly, he was not as skilled at parenting as I am and somehow, his mistakes were able to override my amazingness. Well, that was a troubling deal! I’d already tried to fix the things that are wrong with him but hadn’t found a reliable method for every failing. This was getting most frustrating!

The faulted partner theory was a comforting conundrum for a time. It fueled many hours of prayer and whining. Still, as much as I clung to the faulted partner theory of why my children are messed up, it didn’t explain why they were messed up in ways similar to the ways I’m messed up.

That was tricky to figure.

Jesus was involved. I knew how to parent. My husband had me watching him every second. Ah. Maybe it was a generational thing. That’s it! My parents’ sin was visited on the next generation. I could blame them twice! Them AND their parents.

Okay, okay, I could work with that. MY children aren’t perfect but we’ve made great strides toward the perfection of my great-grandchildren, and I was still in the clear.

Until the day I looked into the mirror – two of them – my children. Sigh. There’s no denying they’re messed up like me, by me, in some ways less so but in other ways, surpassing me.

HOW did this occur? How did tares get sown in my wheat field? I built my home on Jesus. I prayed. I read James Dobson. I mean, seriously, I homeschooled! How are my children still messed up?

In fairness to my messed up kids, they’re no more messed up than any other sinner on the planet. In reality, my children are amazing, giving, hard working, Jesus following, grace-covered adults with issues – just like the rest of us. The problem in this entire scenario was not them. It was my delusion and my refusal to believe the Bible.

The Bible says there is no one righteous. No one. That we all fall short of the glory of God. Even those of us with perfect parenting. Even those of us with deluded parents who think they’ll be able to be more perfect than any who’ve gone before. No one is not a sinner – even the children raised in our Jesus-loving homes.

We can’t parent people into righteousness. Each one of us needs Jesus.

This is what I forgot to believe when I was raising my kids. I said it. I nearly believed it. But I didn’t really. If I’d believed it, I wouldn’t have been so surprised that my kids are messed up – or that I did it.

Not all of it. They’re sinners in their own right. Still, I made a sizeable donation to their messed up-ness fund. (But, I don’t have to convince you, by now, right?)

We all need a moment under the broom tree, like Elijah, when he realized this truth: “And he asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.’ And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” I Kings 19:4b-5

Elijah has this massive realization – that he’s no better than his fathers and it nearly kills him. God’s response? “Big news flash, Elijah. Take a nap. Have some chicken soup. You’re the only one in shock here.”

It’s in that moment – where we offer grace to those who messed us up and extend grace to our messed up offspring and we reach for grace ourselves – in that moment Jesus says, “Finally! Welcome back. I thought you almost forgot about needing me.”

We start out realizing our need for Jesus but in our enthusiasm to show Him our love and gratitude, some of us treat Him like a booster rocket, that launch power we need to escape sin’s gravity but once we hit orbit, we eject Him and think we can circle the planet on our own.

That’s why children are a blessing. They’re daily reminders that we all need Jesus. Every minute of every day of every hour we walk the earth. And that’s beautiful because we need that reminder.

So, if you’ve been raised by messed up parents – forgive them. If you’ve raised messed up kids – forgive yourself and thank them. Thank them for reminding you daily that we all need Jesus.

I’ve done my best parenting on my knees. How about you?

**To my kids: don’t read this post. You’re perfect and beautiful and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Haven’t met my messed up family and my messed up heart? Stop by My Heart page and check us out.

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    The Conversation

  1. Once again you read my mind. However you have a more eloquent way of expressing it. We all need to read this. Thank you for giving me permission to breath. I have been upset at my parenting. This post was my nap under the broom tree. Thank you. I will be reposting this on twitter tagging Focus on the family and others. The world is a better place with you and your insight Lori.

  2. Carla says:

    Amen, Lori! It is SURE too bad we can’t keep blaming others, isn’t it? It was SO comforting! Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get this epiphany until I was 50 (slow learner). I am forever grateful that 2 out of 3 of my children love Jesus, one is an assistant pastor, one an amazing, compassionate mother and wife. Even though I thoroughly screwed them up, our Abba took my misdirected efforts and turned them into beautiful adults I am so very proud of!

  3. okay…I can stop beating myself up now?…thanks for your timely post!

  4. Tammy Smith says:

    Sinners raising sinners…..Makes me run to the cross,cling to the cross,stay at the cross of Jesus.Thank you,timely post Lori.

  5. Becky says:

    I found this by googling “I think I messed my kids up” & just like you I raised them with Jesus & Dr.Dobson. ?? I was so sure I was & will do it better than my parents. As a mom to a teen girl I had my under a broom tree moment today she let me know how I “messed up” & it hurt & im not perfect but try so hard to be. My mom wasn’t either. None of us are & she will probably have this same moment with her kids. And in that moment today I have such forgiveness & grace for my parents & the times I thought they failed me. Thank you for this encouragement. I know it’s 2017 & was posted years ago, but it helped me today in my hurt & brokeness. Reminded me that only God is righteous.