We’re obviously going to have a lot of fun in this series. We are kicking off a brand new series today called #ParentingFail. We’re going to spend the next four weeks talking about our “fails” as parents.
Now, just like the marriages series that we just finished last week, I want to say this upfront. I realize not everyone in here is a parent. But I also realize that a lot of you who aren’t parents yet, will be one day. You’ll have children one day. Maybe you’ll adopt a child one day. But even though you don’t have kids now, a lot of you will in the future.
And I know some of you are on the other side of this spectrum. You’ve not only got kids, but now you’ve got grandkids. Don’t check out on me, just because your kids are grown. Because a lot of the principles that we’re going to explore in this series really apply to grandmas and grandpas, too.
If you’re a parent, think back to the moment when you met your first child for the first time.
Here’s a picture of when we met Ryan for the first time.
When a doctor hands you your newborn baby, it’s unbelievable. And it’s overwhelming.
I remember what I was thinking when I held Ryan for the first time. I wish I could tell you I was overcome with joy and happiness.
But in reality, I was overwhelmed with stress. First of all, Ryan’s entrance into the world was really stressful. He was delivered by emergency C-section because he wasn’t doing well at all. In the first minute after delivery, Ryan’s Apgar Score was a 2. If you know anything about that, you know that’s critical. The normal range is 7-10. Ryan was a 2. He wasn’t breathing. He had turned blue. And Nicki was laying on the table, saying, “Mike, make him cry. Just make him cry.”
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so helpless.
But finally, he did start to cry and everything stabilized. Within a few minutes, his Apgar Score went up to an 8. And then, when everything calmed down and we knew he was going to be ok, the nurse handed him to me.
And it just felt like, “Ok, now that all that fun is over, here’s this brand new life, and you’re in charge. What are you going to do?”
For a while, I had been totally caught up in the medical emergency. But now that everything was calm, and I’m holding this baby, the reality of parenthood started to set in. And honestly, I tried to smile under that mask for this picture, but inside, I was really thinking, “Ok, just don’t drop him, you moron. Just don’t drop him.”
Seriously, that’s what I was thinking. “Just don’t screw it up.”
And to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever quit thinking that as a parent. Just don’t screw it up. Just don’t make a mistake.
The problem is, that’s impossible. The plain fact is that, as a parent, I WILL make mistakes. A lot of mistakes.
And now that I’ve been a parent for almost 11 years, I’ll be honest…I feel like I screw up all the time. I feel like all I do is make mistakes.
And a lot of other parents are right there with me. It’s not, “What if I make mistakes?” It’s more like, “How do I make sure my kid survives all my mistakes?” “How do I make sure that my mistakes don’t scar my kid for life?” “How do I make sure that my kid isn’t going to be in therapy for their entire adult life because of how much I screwed them up with all my mistakes?”
That’s more in line with how most of us think, isn’t it? It’s not, “Will I fail?” It’s more like, “I hope my failures don’t mess my kid up forever.”
Here’s what we’re going to do in this series: we’re going to chase after some hope. Because as I talk to parents, that’s what I see more than anything else. They just need a good dose of hope.
If you’re the parent of an infant or a toddler, you need hope that your kid’s future is not based on your ability to be a perfect parent. If you’ve got elementary aged kids, you need hope to keep pressing on. If you’ve got teenagers, you need a TON of hope (and probably a big bottle of wine to go with it). Parents of kids at any age need hope. And that’s what this series is all about.
There are a ton of parents in this room who have seen the pressure needle spike. They feel like they’re about to explode. Today, we’re going to turn the knob and release some of that pressure.
And we’re going to do it by talking about second chance parenting. You and I need to embrace the opportunity to become a second chance parent.
And to do that, we’re going to walk through a passage that the Apostle Paul wrote to believers in the city of Ephesus. What he told the Ephesian Christians has a ton of application to us today.
In Ephesians 1, starting in verse 17, Paul wrote, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you,
the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…” (Ephesians 1:17-20, NIV)
Now, I realize that this doesn’t look much like a parenting Scripture at first, but hang with me. There is so much truth here that we need to understand as moms and dads. There is so much here that God desperately wants us to know.
First of all, He wants you to know who you are. So often, we get our identity all messed up. We end up looking for our identity in all the wrong places. And parents are especially vulnerable to this trap.
This isn’t going to be easy for some of you to hear, but it’s the truth. Your primary identity is not as a parent. Your identity as “mom” or “dad” is not primarily who you are. And if that’s where you find your identity, everything is going to get all messed up.
Look at what Paul said. He said, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (Ephesians 1:17, NIV)
It starts by knowing who you are, and the only way to know who you are is to know who God is. That’s why Paul prayed that the Ephesian Christians would “know him better.”
And look at how Paul described God. “The glorious Father.”
Did you realize that this is how God is described in the Bible more than any other way? The most common title for God in all of Scripture is “Father.”
That’s critical for us to remember. You were a child before you were ever a parent. And that doesn’t just mean that you were your parents’ child. You were God’s child. And you still are. And that is where you find your identity.
You are God’s child, bought by the blood of Jesus Christ. That’s who you are.
When you find your identity in anything other Christ, you are setting yourself up for failure. But I see parents doing this all the time. Their identity, their entire world, is found in being a parent. It has become who they are.
If you find your identity in being a parent, then one of two things will happen: pride or pain. If being a parent has become who you are, then you are naturally going to look at other parents and make comparisons. And that can only lead to one of two places. Pride if you’re winning at comparison. Pain if you’re losing.
If you compare yourself to other parents who don’t post as many awesome picture of their kids on Facebook as you do…if you compare yourself to other parents who don’t feed their kids all-natural, organic food like you do….if you compare yourself to other parents who don’t do _____________________ as well as you do, then that will lead you to one place. Pride. And that’s a deadly place to be.
If that’s you, then go ahead and compare yourself to a parent. Compare yourself to your Heavenly Father. See how you stack up compared to Him. That ought to provide a nice dose of humility.
But for a whole lot more of us, pride isn’t our problem. Pain is. We do the comparison thing too, only we feel like we’re always on the losing side. We compare ourselves to the “perfect” parents that we see all around us, and we just end up feeling like losers. It causes us a lot of pain.
Here’s what we have to understand. Our failures are not our true identity. Our identity is hidden in the grace of Christ. He is our identity.
It’s time for us to stop finding our true identity in parenthood. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your kids. It just means that you don’t expect them to provide your identity for you. And actually, that’s a great gift for you to give them because it takes a huge weight off of them.
Your kids can’t stand up under the weight of your identity. But Jesus can. Your son can’t be your savior. Your daughter can’t be your deliverer. They’re just not up to that task. But Jesus is. That opens the pressure valve for your kids.
And it also releases a ton of pressure from you, because when Jesus is your identity, that’s when you find hope. And that’s the second thing that God wants us to know.
Know who you are. And know the hope that you have. When you find your identity in Christ, that’s when you find hope. It’s not something that you’re going to find anywhere else.
Go back to what Paul said again. “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…” (Ephesians 1:17-18a, NIV)
If you are Christ, you have hope. Period. No exceptions. No exclusions. Hopeless isn’t even a word that is in God’s vocabulary. If you are in Christ, you have hope.
But as parents, it’s easy to forget that. It’s easy to just feel overwhelmed. If you’re the parent of an infant, it’s easy to just have this overwhelming feeling that you’re never going to sleep again. Or if you have a kid who is struggling in school, you can feel overwhelmed because you’re just not sure what else you can do to help him. Or when your daughter gets her heart broken, it’s overwhelming because you just don’t know how to make her feel better. At every stage, at every turn, parenting is just overwhelming.
But your hope lies in a Savior who is greater than your situation.
Your hope does not lie in your ability to navigate every parenting situation perfectly. Your hope lies in a Savior who is greater than your situation.
You know what that means? It means that you don’t have to have all the answers. It means that if you melt down into a hot mess once in while, it’s ok. Jesus isn’t participating in your meltdown with you. It means that if you want to go outside and scream sometimes, go ahead. Jesus isn’t screaming.
In other words, it means that we live in grace. We give grace to our kids. We give grace to our spouse. And we give grace to ourselves. Grace is what really opens the valve and lets the pressure out. We live in grace. That’s what we do as second chance parents.
We put our hope in the grace of God and not in our parenting ability.
Can you feel the good news here? If you’re really understanding this, this really should feel like that pressure valve is opening. We’re turning the knob, and the pressure is getting released today. We put our hope in the grace of God and not in our parenting ability.
Let me tell you…I need that. Man, do I NEED that!
I told you last week about how our son, Brock’s, soccer team won their tournament championship recently. What I didn’t tell you was what happened during that game.
I was the field marshal, which means I was in charge of tracking the playing time for all the players on the other team. If every player doesn’t play at least one full half, the team is disqualified. So I was tracking the other team, and one of the parents from their team was tracking us.
Everything was fine. No problems, until the other field marshal came up to me in the fourth quarter and said, “You guys have a player that isn’t going to have enough playing time. You’re going to be disqualified.”
I knew this wasn’t true. I knew he made a mistake. So I informed our coach. And as soon as we told this guy that he had made a mistake, he got all kinds of excited. He walked out on the field and stopped the game! He started yelling at the referees and yelling at our coach. It was starting to turn ugly. And then, some of the parents from their team started yelling at us all the way across the field.
And that’s when I snapped. I had managed to keep my cool until that happened. I blew a gasket. I fired back at that field marshal, and I started yelling back at those parents across the field.
This is U7 soccer! This isn’t the World Cup! I couldn’t believe what kind of example they were setting for all these kids, so I blew up. I let them have it. Do you see the irony here? They were setting an incredibly bad example for all these kids, so I lost my temper and yelled at them, which made me a bad example. It was a pretty ugly situation.
And later on, after the game, I was really beating myself up about it. Both of my boys were there to see that. Brock was obviously playing in the game. Ryan was on the sidelines watching. They both had a front row seat to see their dad losing his mind. I kind of hoped that I wasn’t yelling loud enough for everyone to hear me, but Nicki later informed me that this wasn’t the case. She said everyone on the field heard me, and they probably heard me at all the other fields, too. So I knew both my boys heard the whole thing.
And then, to cap it off, I’m a pastor. I’m supposed to set an example. And there I was, out in public, ranting like some lunatic.
Later on, Nicki and I were talking about it and I said, “That was a real shining moment for me, wasn’t it?”
And you know what she said? She just said, “It was a human moment.”
She didn’t beat me up over it. She didn’t scold me or berate me. She gave me grace. And later on, all the coaches and parents from our team were laughing and making jokes about it. They gave me grace, too.
It was a pretty epic parenting fail, not to mention a pretty epic pastor fail, and I was surrounded by people who gave me grace. That’s humbling. That’s awesome. Because that’s exactly what I needed.
It’s what we all need as parents, because we’re going to fail. We’re going to screw things up. We’re going to blow it big time.
But here’s why we have hope. We put our hope in the grace of God and not in our parenting ability. And that grace is always there to give us a second chance.
That’s what being a second chance parent is all about. It’s about living in the lavish, extravagant, unmerited grace of God.
Go back to what Paul wrote again. Read a little bit further this time. “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you,
the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, [key in on this part] and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…” (Ephesians 1:17-20, NIV)
Our hope lies in God’s grace, coupled with God’s power. And look at what kind of power it is. It is resurrection power. Paul said that God’s incomparably great power is available to us, and it is the exact same power that God used to raise Jesus from the dead.
If you are in Christ, you have resurrection power in your life. And that means that if you are a parent, you have resurrection power in your parenting.
And resurrection power is second chance power.
The power of God raised Jesus from the dead. The power of God turned a crucifixion into a resurrection. And that means that the power of God can give me a second chance. I might think my situation is dead, but God can resurrect it.
I might think that I’ve screwed up so badly that it’s over, but God’s grace and God’s power changes my “over” into a “do over.” It gives me a second chance.
Now, this is key for all of us as parents to remember. Your kid is NOT your second chance. Jesus IS your second chance.
I’ve seen so many parents who try to live vicariously through their kids. They want their kid to be their second chance at glory on the football field. Or they want their kid to get into the college that they never got into. Or they want their kid to achieve what they could never achieve. They want their kid to be the fulfillment of their own dreams.
Your kid is not your second chance. Jesus is your second chance. That’s why our identity has to come from Him, not from being “mom” or “dad.” And that’s why we can have hope. Our hope is in the One whose power can turn crucifixions into resurrections.
Now, go back and look at this again. Paul points out something that is critically important. He said that he wants us to know God’s “incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:19a, NIV)
Do you see that? God’s incomparably great power is for us who believe. Not for us who are perfect. Not for us who never fail. Not for us who never lay down at night feeling like we totally blew it that day. Not for us who never have a meltdown or lose our temper. That’s not what it says.
Paul reminds us that God’s power is “for us who believe.”
And if that’s true, then that changes everything. You talk about opening up the pressure valve? If His power is for us who believe, that takes the pressure off of us because it’s not based on anything we can do ourselves.
It’s not based on our ability to be good enough. It’s about believing in the One who was good enough for us.
It’s not based on our perfection. It’s about believing in the One who was perfect in our place.
It’s not based on our ability to love our kids perfectly. It’s about believing in the One who loves them infinitely more than we do.
It’s not about being the perfect parent. It’s about believing in your perfect Father.
God’s incomparably great power is available for us who believe.
So here’s what we’re going to do today. Our band is going to come up right now. And as they come, here’s what I’m asking everybody to do. Close your eyes. It’s ok. I promise we’re not going to do anything weird to you. Just close your eyes.
Now that your eyes are closed, allow your mind’s eye to open up. We’ve been talking all morning about our parenting fails. If you’re a parent, you don’t have to think too hard to remember a time when you failed. Maybe a time when you failed this past week. Maybe a time when you failed this morning.
Whatever it is, get a good picture of that failure in your mind. And if you’re not a parent, it’s ok. We all remember times when we failed. Get a good picture of it in your mind.
Can you see it?
Now, with your eyes closed and with that failure in your mind, listen to what God said through the prophet Isaiah. He said, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19a, NIV)
That failure that you always remember…God is telling you to forget it. He’s telling you to forget it because it’s not who you are. Your identity is not found in your failures. It is found in His grace.
You can open your eyes. Look at this Scripture.
God said, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”
In Christ, you are given a second chance. God is doing a new thing. He is doing a new thing in your life. He is doing a new thing in your family. But a whole lot of us never see it because we’re too busy living in the past. That’s why He said, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
You can be a second chance parent. You can be a second chance person. God is doing something new in you, but you’ll only see it if you let go of the past. Remember what we always say about the past here at Connect…if you don’t let it die, it won’t let you live.
Don’t let past failures keep you from living in the grace and freedom that God has for you today. Jesus didn’t die for you so you could stay locked up in the prison of past failures and shortcomings and sins. He died for you to set you free.
All of your sins, including all your parenting fails, died with Him on the cross. But through His resurrection, we see the truth of second chances come to life. And that’s what we want you to know today.
And that’s why after church, there will be a team of people ready to talk with you and pray with you and serve you in any way they can. They’re available every week here at Connect, and they’re ready to meet with you today.
When Jesus was very near death on the cross, He said, “It is finished.” The mission of forgiveness was finished. The mission of freedom was finished. He had done it all for us because we could have never done it ourselves.
And that means the pressure is off. And His grace is on. So let’s celebrate that and let’s worship Him right now.