This past Sunday, I preached a sermon about parenting. Lots of points, some theological reflection, and some practical advice. It was a lot. I probably could / should have turned it into a three or four part series. My prayer is that the main point didn’t get lost: the word of grace. Especially for those with rebellious kids, parents whose children didn’t turn out the way they planned or prayed. I feel compelled to repeat that word of grace here, just in case it got lost in everything else I was trying to say.

You’re not just dealing with a prodigal child. God is dealing with a prodigal universe. Sin and rebellion against God is universal. It’s in the entire stream of the human race. Raising children is not the same as raising cattle or programming code into a computer. It’s not always cause and effect like that. It’s not always that black and white or a matter of direct input / output. People rebel against what they’ve been taught. Humans turn their backs on God and the people who love them. We can’t always know how or why things go foul.

Here’s what we DO know. Our God is the perfect Father and he knows how you feel. He, too, agonizes over his rebellious children who are not in a great place. He’s not distant from that. He suffers and dies on a cross for us. And with us. Our kids belong to the Lord, not to us. How much more…?

And we know THIS. God’s Holy Spirit can convict anyone of sin and bring anyone to a saving faith in Christ. Even after years and decades of running, the Spirit blows where he wills and we can’t track him or control him. We can only watch the leaves flutter as he goes by.

Parenting is like the cross: unconditional love, sacrificial service, and impossible pain. And unsurpassed glory. We bless our children by parenting by the cross. We don’t weigh them down with expectations we could never bear ourselves. We keep our promises as best we can. We forgive them and forgive ourselves. And we recognize that we all have a future and a hope, one that is wrapped up in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Our plans may evaporate, our dreams may get crushed. Maybe you’re not as consistent with the discipline or as committed to the priorities. You’re too harsh sometimes and too lenient the other times. But our God’s love and grace for his people never ever stops. His mercies never cease and his promises never fail.