The other night I was battling deep feelings of failure. I couldn’t sleep. My mind accused me, declaring all of the ways in which I had failed as a husband, father, pastor, and son. I don’t know if those thoughts were precipitated by my son’s recent defiant attitude, the stress of ministry and the tough decisions that have had to be made therein, the added chaos of a third baby, or the busy-ness of a new ministry year (I suspect that it was some combination of all of that). I laid there under the weight of all my condemnation, and all the (imaginary) consequences that would come as a result, and I fell asleep heavy and weak.
Tonight I had an all-out battle with my son. As his defiance, selfishness, and disrespect reached an all-time high, so did my anger. I responded by spanking him and wearing him out until his talking-back was literally beaten out of him, and then the unexpected happened. My anger turned to a complex sadness. Contrition over responding to my son in anger collided with desperate pleading for my son to obey and choose the way of life. Fear over how such a spanking would affect his personality and confidence fused with a deep desire that he should be yielded to the Lord. I held him, and I prayed and pled with God to make him the kind of boy who would be freed to no longer live for himself. I prayed that I would be the kind of father who would obey the Lord just as I wanted him to obey me. As I held him close to me – my cheek to the top of his head – I whispered to him, “Daddy, loves you…” and he finished the sentence, “…no matter what.” No matter what. I love my boy – whether he’s disobedient, selfish, disrespectful, stubborn, whatever. I love him, and it’s because I love him that I am so passionate for his obedience and character.
As I reflect on what happened tonight and the feelings of a few nights ago, I am reminded that the Father loves me…no matter what. I can get myself into this place where I try so hard to get his approval by my parenting, pastoring, or just plain pandering. The Gospel is good news to me tonight because I realize that in all of that, because of Christ’s righteousness in me, I’ve been born of God, and simply by the fact that I’ve been born of him, he loves me. He loves me. I can be free to parent and love my child as best as I know how because HE LOVES ME. I can pastor at my church, love my wife, and be faithful to a family that’s far away in MD because HE LOVES ME. Nothing changes that – not performance, results, effects, or otherwise.
I still feel sadness towards my son, and its a sadness born out of compassion towards him and a deeper desire that he would love the Lord Jesus far more than his old man does (which is not saying a whole lot). I feel a sadness that I perhaps wronged him tonight, and I prayed with him that God would forgive me if any of my actions were out of my own selfish anger as opposed to righteous anger. As I came back to my room to just think, I felt the urge to listen to this song. The video’s cheesy, but the song is worth listening to. If you are wrestling with guilt, failure, or fear tonight, pay close attention to the life-giving words of Verse 2:
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on him and pardon me.
Here’s Shane and Shane’s version.