I’m a father of five beautiful children. What a distinct privilege it is to be a father. Honestly, I love being a dad. But on my worst days, I can often forget that I love this. Step into the world of parenting, and you can quickly get overwhelmed with inhibiting your children’s sin (peeling one fighting child off of another), your own guilt (I feel bad about something I did wrong), and maintaining the practical and tactical elements of survival (how many times have I changed diapers or wiped snotty noses or chauffeured a child to an activity or made a meal for our kids?).
Parenting is hard word. No doubt about it. In the midst of these daily battles, I find that my mind can quickly wander down a few mental trails that are not edifying for me, nor are they helpful for my kids.
Unhelpful Thought # 1: “I’m a failure of a parent because I got angry.”
One of my kids is really gifted at pushing my buttons. It’s not hard to get exasperated because my child is being stubborn or foolish, especially when I’m tired and worn out. So, I snap, I raise my voice, and sadly give myself over to my momentary anger.
After something like this happens, I can be prone to thoughts like: “You’re such a failure as a parent.” Or, for about an hour after the incident, I walk around feeling guilty about my anger. I know it was wrong. I know I shouldn’t have raised my voice. I know I need to be humble, and apologize to my child. I want to wallow in my misery. I failed, so let me just wallow in self-pity for a while. Maybe you can relate?
Unhelpful Thought # 2: “Sin still rules me.”
I remember one time, after getting angry at my daughter, I was sitting at the kitchen table, staring at a chocolate Easter bunny, contemplating eating my misery away. Not a great way to deal with my emotions. (It is true, men can eat for comfort, too.)
Here is where the Apostle Paul comes in:
“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).
After a long treatise on how we are united to Christ and no longer slaves to sin, Paul wants to distinguish between our old self (our pre-conversion state when sin ruled us) and our new self. The sad reality is that too many of us (as parents) live as if our sinful tendencies still rule us. We assume our sin is winning; so, we wallow in guilt or shame or self-defeat.
But Paul makes this argument in Romans 6: Since Christ died, and we are united to Christ in His death, we are dead to sin. We must recognize this fact.
Or, to put it in simple terms: Recognize that your sin no longer rules you. Remember this fact. When you get angry, or give yourself over to a bad eating habit, or wallow in guilt or shame, or contemplate your parental failures, remember that this is who you once were, but not any longer.
But Paul doesn’t stop there. He wants me to recognize my new reality—that I’m in Christ. Those two words (“in Christ”) mean everything to me. It gives me hope because this sin no longer defines me. As an unbeliever, I was a slave to this sin. But as a Christian, it no longer has to rule me. As a Christian, I can often forget this new reality, and assume my sin defines me.
I don’t know about you, but remembering my new reality—that sin no longer rules me, and that I can find life through Christ—is hard. Sometimes I forget. Other times I just want to wallow in my guilt.
So, I need to do as Paul encourages me to do—recognize the truth of the situation. If you are ‘in Christ’, then you are united to Christ through his death and his resurrection (Romans 6:3-4). He provides the strength to help you daily battle the sin that once defined you, and helps you to live more like him every day. Sin no longer has mastery over you (Romans 6:5-7).
Parents: Take Heart.
Don’t give up. Every Easter, I’m reminded of this fact: Because Christ rose again, I have life. I’m no longer a slave to my sin. You no longer are defined by your anger, wallowing, guilt, or parental failures. So, put away that chocolate Easter bunny and be patient with your child. Christ has risen; you now have life through Him.
Join the Conversation
What practical, relational difference does your new life in Christ have in your daily life? How does the good news of Easter resurrection change how you view yourself and how you live life?