I am a flawed, imperfect and all-too-often impatient father to my four boys. I strive to set a godly example, but sometimes I blow it. Even so, I refuse to become sidelined by the foolish pursuit of perfection.
The drive for perfection is rooted in pride and ego. It is a good marketing slogan, but a lousy life mantra. It is a masquerading monster - one day disguising itself as a righteous pursuit of godliness, to the next, becoming a club the enemy bludgeons us with, reminding us how far off the mark we can be.
In the mess, we forget to point our boys to THE ONE who is perfect. Why? Because, deep down, we are frustrated that it's not us.
So, how can we free ourselves from this oppressive enemy? By learning the art of the no-strings-attached apology.
It's a fairly worn pattern at my home. The boys get out of bounds and I become frustrated and raise my voice or discipline them while I'm angry. I owe them an apology.
So, I begin with, "(insert name of son du jour), I was a jerk and I'm sorry that I yelled at you. Will you forgive me?" Sometimes, my son will say, "Sure Dad, but you were right to be angry, we shouldn't have been doing that."
It's tempting to leave it at that. You were stupid, I was stupid - so, we're even. But, if we routinely do this, we will retard their (and our) understanding of personal accountability, convincing us that our own sin was justified. We must take the next step.
"That's right, you shouldn't have. But, now we're talking about two separate issues. The first is your mistake. The second was my sin. They are not connected. I sinned because I chose to. It was a bad choice. I'm not perfect, only Jesus Christ was perfect. Learn to trust Him completely, I will occasionally fail you. Thanks for forgiving me."
Here's what I know. I will mess up. And, my boys will mess up. I want to model the full cycle of sin > conviction > repentance > restoration for them as often as I get the opportunity. I don't want them oppressed by the need to never make a mistake. Rather, I want to show them that beyond our mistakes there is healing and redemption, if we are humble enough to seek it.
When you sin against your boys, apologize. Don't hide behind their misbehavior and justify your actions. Take full responsibility for being the flawed man you are. And, use those opportunities to point them to Jesus Christ. Doing this will free you (and your boys) from the (impossible) task of trying to be perfect.
Hmm. Acknowledging our failings, asking for and receiving forgiveness. Does that sound like the gospel to you?
"He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect." (1 Tim 3:4, NIV)