Last week we discussed the first essential prayer that a successful parent prays: “God, open the eyes of my heart so I can know: 1.) what You are really like, and 2.) what I am really like.” This clear heart-understanding is foundational to building a fruitful, functioning, biblical, parent-child relationship.
Through a series of circumstances, my married, 38-year-old-mother-of-four daughter became aware of a long-time feeling in her heart that I had always loved and accepted her two older brothers more than I did her. She felt I continued to do so, even now that they were all married adults; she sensed I was not pleased with her, and, even in some ways, rejected her.
On its face, that idea is preposterous; I have said many times to all who would listen that the most fun I have ever had in my life was coaching my daughter’s high school basketball team. I love her infectious personality, her sense of humor, her perceptive mind, and I love to be with her. As she has said, “Dad, when you are here I can’t get anything done, because you follow me around the house wanting to talk to me.”
How could she feel I don’t love and accept her?! Even she admitted that with her head she even believed growing up that she, my only daughter, was my favorite child!
As we talked over a period of time and I asked the Lord to open the eyes of my heart to truth about myself of which I was unaware, I clearly saw the situation for the first time. I have known for years that I am a certified, life-long Pharisee, like the “older brother” in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, as are my two sons. I am relatively certain I always do everything right. My daughter, on the other hand is the classic “younger brother” in the parable, a rebel. She is relatively sure she always does everything wrong.
I saw that what she felt in her heart was true. On a sub-conscious level, I was not pleased with her and had rejected her because she was not a Pharisee like me and her two brothers!
This underscored for me a truth of which I was already fully aware (at least in my head), but had never applied to myself in my relationship with my daughter. There are three levels of sin in the human heart:
1.) What I do and say: immorality, gossip, lying, stealing, etc. – the obvious sins of which we are all aware – the sins of a rebel.
2.) What I consciously think: hatred of others, lustful thoughts, etc. – not as obvious, but when we are honest we know these sins are there.
3.) The unconscious thoughts and intents of my heart that the Bible calls sin and of which I am generally completely unaware until the Lord opens my eyes: constant self-seeking, self-promotion, self-exaltation, self-righteousness and self-protection. These are the sins of a Pharisee, one who “on the outside looks righteous to others but inside is filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27).
On a completely unconscious level, I wanted Ramah to “look good” to others by being a Pharisee (John 5:44), and hence I would “look good” as well for she was my daughter! Since her performance did not measure up to her brothers, there was no glory for me in her performance as evaluated by the “good Christians” with whom I associated. My evaluation of sin, unlike that of Jesus, is that the sins of a Pharisee are more acceptable than the sins of a rebel! So, I was dissatisfied with my daughter, resulting in trying to change her myself to fit my pharisaical model rather than letting God change her in His own time and His own way into the woman He desires her to be, as He is currently busily and successfully doing.
My recognition of this unconscious sin of accepting my daughter based on what she did and not on who she was--my daughter—and then my subsequent repentance to her knocked down barriers in our relationship that had existed unbeknownst to either of us for years. We both can sense a new love and freedom between us that is a result of God answering my Parental Prayer #1.
Next week we will look at Gospel Parenting Essential Prayer #2.