“I’m disappointed in you.”
Ever heard that from your parents? Said it to your kids? Felt like that’s what God would say to you?
Evidently, there’s a child-rearing Bible study out right now that justifies the use of the above statement with children. The very idea gives me what my Granny would have called the “heebee jeebees.” My parents, thanks be to God, never said those words to me. Somehow I still always knew when I’d made a mistake. I’ve been talking with my 14 year old about this when she recently expressed she thought God was disappointed in her. My heart broke to find she actually thought that, and yet the more I think it through, the more I wonder how many people use this method, and further, how many think God uses it on His kids? Think about some things with me:
How effective could the statement, “I’m disappointed in you.” actually BE? I say, not effective at all. Unless, of course, you are attempting to accomplish humiliation, irritation, and ill feelings between you and your child. Perhaps some say this phrase and really mean, “I know you can do better.” or “I wanted better things for you.” or “I expected you to make a better choice, and I’m surprised you chose this way.” But when “I’m disappointed in you.” comes out, what it REALLY communicates is: “If you performed better, I’d be happier with you.” and “I’m in a certain class, and you, because of your choices, no longer qualify to be in my upper crust group.” and “I’m embarrassed by you because you aren’t as good as me.” and “You’re just not as good as I thought you were.”
If I desire to parent my children as God would parent me, then I can’t say “I’m disappointed in you.” You see, God, no matter how big my mistake has been, hasn’t been disappointed in me. He hasn’t been disappointed in you. Disagree? Then I would ask you, how, if Jesus knew of your every sin when He died on the cross for you, could he possibly be disappointed? Disappointment, by its essence, includes an element of surprise, an element of expecting one outcome and actually receiving another. Yet God in His omniscience knew every bad choice you and I would make and still gave His only Son to be sin for us, to bear our punishment. He knew EXACTLY the outcome. You and I have never once surprised God, even with the most outrageous of our antics. And without some element of surprise, you can’t have disappointment.
But I’m not omniscient like God, right? Right. I still feel upset when my kids make bad decisions. However, unless I think that God has waited until now to create the first three perfect humans since Jesus and given them to me to be my children, then I must expect that these precious ones WILL make mistakes. I should expect that they’ll have the same drives, same temptations, same flaws that all humans have and will, on occasion, fail to measure up to standard as they fight to handle their frailty. More than wanting my children to know how upset I am that they messed up, I want them to learn from their mistakes, and I want them to know they don’t have to be perfect to be LOVED.
How very grateful I am that God is teaching this idea to me, His daughter. His grace wasn’t given to me because I earned it, but because He loves me. I’m so glad He isn’t waiting until I’m good enough to give me His approval, but gave it to me for free, based on the perfection of Jesus Himself. I’ve striven many years to be “good enough,” to be as perfect as I could be, and yet I’ve always come up feeling like my best just didn’t make the cut. What a freedom to be loved by God in spite of my flaws! With that belief, I’m free to be me, to love God back, and continue getting to know Him through my own good and bad times. The temptation to just quit, since I’ll never measure up anyway, is gone. I’ve already “measured up” because of Jesus, so now I can get to know God and myself and explore who He made me to be.
I want that so much for my kids. I want them to know that kind of love. I want them to know the One who IS that kind of love. I want them to climb higher than I ever dreamed they could, because they have the confidence to try, knowing they’ll be loved whether they succeed or fail. That’s what I have in God, it’s what my parents lived for me, and what I want my own babies to know above all else, even as I try to believe it myself.