Glenn Beck was talking about our nation’s demise. College riots. Racial tension. Extramarital sex. Addictions. Breakdown of marriage and family. And he offered reasons. Lack of economic opportunity. Politics. Education.
While these are all contributing factors, they pale in comparison to the number one, epic factor in a child’s success or failure: Parenting.
Now if you feel unseen walls rising to defend you against an onslaught of guilt, shame or blame… if you feel your blood beginning to boil, resist. Such are symptoms of a wayward parent. This surely is about the way, and we need to acknowledge that God’s ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:9) With God’s way, walls come down. Blood flows. We experience reconciliation. Transformation. Restoration.
Do you want it?
This article is for all parents who desire to keep their children from going too far wayward. Yes, too far. At heart is a strong affirmation that, on this side of eternity, we're all wayward. The only questions are: (1) How far wayward are we?, and (2) Are we oriented and moving towards home?
This article is for all parents who desire their wayward children to turn towards home and who desire to accompany them. This is only possible if we're willing to accept and address the ways in which we are wayward.
Of course, this needs to happen. We’re living in a society suffering from terminal illness. We will not be healed by another soothing message. Another program. Another bandaid. And we need to recognize perhaps the most unlikely, but dangerous bandaid: religion. Not in itself, but as we use it. How we hide behind it. Allow it to conceal a festering disease beneath.
I’m inviting us to recognize that there is a standard-- and it's not one we can create, but One who created us. I’m inviting us to candidly consider where we stand with regard to Him. This may be a difficult awakening, not only to the fact that we fall short, but how far we fall short. But bold and honest consideration of our distance from God is precisely the occasion to seek His transforming grace. In fact, this is the entire reason the Church exists: To get us there.
We need to go there. Because “civilization passes by way of the family” (St. John Paul II). Because too many are tripping over the low bar. Because parenthood doesn’t expire until we do. Because dismissing past responsibility undermines the potentiality for present revival. Because God wants to transform us, and through us, our children and this world.
The Big Objection: “Look at God’s First Children!”
The Enemy loves to whisper: “Don’t beat yourself up! You could have done everything perfectly and your children could still go astray! Look at God's first children!”
Of course, such thinking begs the question: Did we? What value is there in presuming our perfection? A true believer doesn’t need to beat himself up because He recognizes God has already been beaten up for us: “[H]e was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him.” (Is. 53:5)
Even more, “by his wounds we are healed.” Isn’t this what we all want? How are we opening the door to God’s outpouring grace and mercy if we fail to live in this light? To acknowledge our offenses?
The truth is that all of us have sinned and are far from the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23) Without admission of our imperfection and sin we have no need of a savior. Matters faith and church are absurd.
God’s blessedness flowing through our brokenness is hardly just conceptual. It is the truth of our nature in Jesus Christ. Powerful testimony to this principle is given in books such as Neal Lozano’s “Unbound” and Bob Schucht’s “Be Healed.”
Let me add to the testimony. My parents were superstar parents. Our home was filled with prayer and solid formation. It overflowed to many around us. If anyone were to be declared “good” parents it would be them. Needless to say, all of us seven children went wayward. In small and great ways. If ever there was an occasion for parents to play the “not our fault” card, it would be them. Yet that’s not what they did. They knew they were imperfect. They knew their past paved our present. And they knew their appointing and anointing as parents didn’t come with an 18 year expiration.
They wanted their ceiling to become our floor.
And so, when a large cloud hung over our family (though never without many God-rays!), my dad sent each of us a note. In this note he acknowledged his deficiencies. He took ownership. He apologized. He urged us to recognize that we’d have to deal with the weeds. He encouraged us to seek transformation and healing. Above all, he entrusted us to God.
It was a singularly powerful moment. In acknowledging his imperfection, he opened a door. He turned us over to the One who could make us right. He gave us permission to recognize and own the compass we’d been given for ourselves. Not ordered to him, but to the Heavenly Father.
While we would and will continue to navigate uncharted territory, all of us except one came to personally, intentionally embrace life in Jesus Christ, to live as His disciples in the fullness of our Catholic faith. Extended to 12 adults and 39 grandchildren.
So where are the “best” Mass-going Catholics?
Stats show that among those who go to Mass regularly, no more than 13% pray before meals (the lowest bar). 40% of Mass-goers question if a relationship with God is even possible. Following huge Catholic events (among the most motivated of Catholics) we consistently find that less than 5% spend more than 10 minutes a week in meaningful conversation and prayer in their homes.
Interviews with numerous members of "good Catholic families" reveal that while many had religion and ritual, they lacked relationship with Jesus Christ. Most parents did not exhibit such a relationship themselves. While it was the deepest desire of their hearts, most simply did not have that mentoring-- or cultivation of virtue to lead in their homes.
They knew about Jesus, but did not know Jesus. They were sacramentalized, perhaps catechised, but not evangelized.
If we take seriously our call to making our way home, to sainthood, to paving the way for our families, our community and future generations... to be authentic, radical disciples for Jesus Christ, we need to ask ourselves:
- Are we personally striving to live for Jesus Christ? Without compromise? Without excuse? And not just in "church" moments, but as a way of life? Is this verified in our choices of time, money, entertainment, and conversation?
- Are we creating a disciple-making culture of encounter with Jesus Christ in our homes? Do our children desire to talk and pray regularly from the heart? Do they see the world through the lens of the Gospel? Do they readily apologize and forgive?
- Do we spend at least as much time in meaningful conversation and prayer as members do with gadgets?
- Do we prioritize soul-enriching opportunities over sports and entertainment?
- Do we prioritize the unsurpassed value of parental presence in the home, particularly during the earliest years, over careers, house, cars and “nice things”? Do we sacrifice things for our kids, or our kids for things? Do our lives reveal that we didn’t have children for others to raise them?
- With regard to the culture around, are we thermostats or thermometers? Given that "we are what we eat," are we determining what is to be consumed, or allowing them to be consumed?
- How quickly and readily do we give in to push-back from children regarding entertainment, clothing, language, friends and other choices?
- How much are we hiding misguided parental priorities behind religion? Prioritizing time to that church activity or program over making making similar time for meaningful conversation and prayer in our homes?
The Father Factor
And now the epic factor: Is dad the spiritual leader in your home? With the help of the mother, fathers are uniquely appointed and anointed to bring up children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4)
If dad is not in the game, even if mom is totally in the game, the child has only a one in 50 chance of continuing his faith. Yet, if the dad is in the game, even if mom is completely absent, the chances for the child continuing in his faith rises to north of 60%!
Dads, nothing anyone else does surpasses the influence of who we are.
A prominent study compared the progeny of two men (LINK). One of these men, Jonathan Edwards, was a man well known for his outstanding Christian character and conviction. The other, Max Jukes, was an irreverent drunkard. Jonathan Edwards set the course for a U.S. Vice-President, 3 U.S. Senators, 3 governors, 3 mayors, 13 college presidents, 30 judges, 65 professors, 80 public office holders, 100 lawyers and 100 missionaries.
On the other hand, Max Juke's set the course for 310 paupers, who, combined spent 2,300 years in poorhouses, 50 women of debauchery, 400 physically wrecked by indulgent living, 7 murderers, 60 thieves, and 130 other convicts. The Jukes descendants cost the state more than $1,250,000.
Some other stats pronouncing the importance of a man being a spiritual leader:
- 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) – 5 times the average.
- 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
- 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
- 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
- 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)
Of course, it needs to be stated emphatically: With God’s transforming love and mercy, if you’ve inherited such a legacy, you can be His instrument of turning it all around. And if you’re in a home with an MIA dad, you already know that you’ll have to work a lot harder. You’ll have to be all the more intent on establishing priorities.
Authentically Encounter Jesus Christ.
“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (Pope Benedict XIV)
In Christ there is mercy, forgiveness, restoration and transformation. (Rom. 12:1-2)
In homes where Jesus Christ is authentically encountered, lives are truly, permanently transformed. Our Christian character is forged and becomes rock-solid. (Matt. 7:24) As Frank Sheed puts it, one comes to see the whole world “God-bathed.” Even amidst darkness and desert, even if a multitude leave Jesus (John 6:66), with sure conviction one professes with Peter: “"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
In all this, let me emphasize my wayward home: I fall short. But I'm not going to throw out the bar. I'm measured by it. It is for the good of my soul and all those who've been entrusted to me. I want to face the hard questions. I want to be surrounded by people who face the hard questions. I want to strive for the excellence God has created us for. I want to be a saint. With all my children, family and friends, I want to go there.
[Mass Impact is a movement of families with pastors united in seeking personal, family and parish transformation overflowing to the world. We have a weekly IGNITE Radio Live! Program (GO), provide weekly Live IT gathering guides for families and groups (GO), and numerous Kingdom building endeavors. (Free app: MassImpact.us/APP) We’re looking in particular for married couples who know they’re appointed and anointed to be difference-makers. As a couple, commit now to no more than 35 minutes and, together, listen to this first message within 72 hours. Then Share IT and commit to specific ways you’ll Live IT. GO: MassImpact.us/LiveITNow.]