DON'T HAVE THE TIME TO SIT AND READ? NOW YOU CAN LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD (OR) SUBSCRIBE TO MY AUDIO PODCAST
I used to think I'd make a phenomenal parent ...but then I became a dad.
Now, my boys actually like me, or in the words of my oldest son, "You're the best daddy out of all the daddys out there, dad!"
(And I didn't even have to give him any extra candy to say that!) ...but if I'm being honest though, I sometimes fail at the one job I'm supposed to be great at!
Only recently, I had to drop him off at school. While the other children were walking quietly to class in an orderly fashion, he challenged me to race him to the door. Rather than being a grown-up dad, I put on my gameface and decided it was time to show my four-year-old who was boss! Giving him a good head start, I burst into a full sprint trying to catch up with him…. which I did, right before he tripped and fell full-faced into the pavement in front of his teachers and a dozen parents (all of who were probably justified in whatever malevolent thought about me crossed their mind in that moment). After a visit to the nurse’s office (which, let’s be honest, was really detention for me), my son now wears a fading scar that reminds me that my actions have a lasting impact on those who come behind me.
I’m probably making a bigger deal out of that incident than I should. My son’s minor boo-boo is nothing compared to the long lasting emotional wounds parents (unintentionally or intentionally) sometimes pass on to their children. Without laying the blame for all our woes on our parents, the truth is, many of us today carry around wounds from childhood that have shaped how we view ourselves as adults and how we interact with other adults. Whether it was affirmation we needed that we never received, or it was an unhealthy expression of affection we received that we could have lived without, many grown-ups are walking around today with old exposed/untreated wounds. This explains why you’ll sometimes encounter people who seem to react disproportionately to what would seem like an otherwise innocent-enough action (or statement).
So, what is my deepest fear as a parent? That I’ll pass on to my children my unresolved emotional junk.
An older friend of mine who also doubles as a mentor, shared with me an eye-opening encouragement that helped put my fear in perspective. But before I share that with you, permit me to tell you a quick story that got me thinking about this.
A long time ago in the Biblical Middle East, there lived a man named John the Baptist. He had a knack for getting on people’s nerves. Powerfully anointed and on a mission from God, he had no qualms about calling people out on their sins. He told tax collectors and soldiers to stop acting like the Mafia, and he called religious leaders, a “brood of vipers” (which is pretty much one of the worst things a prophet can call you) .
John’s sternest rebuke, however, was saved for the big boss, a king named Herod Antipas, and his new wife, Herodias. Along with a long list of devious scheming, the story goes that Herodias had been the wife of Herod’s half brother, Phillip. After an extended adulterous affair, both Herod and Herodias decided to separate from their spouses so they could marry each other. News of this incestuous affair reached John, and John being John, speaks out and condemns publicly the marriage of the newly weds. In so doing, John adds his name to Herodias’ black list. She nurses such a deep grudge against him that she wants him dead, but her husband won’t carry out the deed because he fears an uprising on account of John’s popularity with the masses.
Wanting to silence him (and obviously silence his own conscience), Herod has John arrested and locked up in chains.
A while later, Herod throws a party at his lavish home and all the nobility and brass in Galilee are in attendance. As entertainment, and perhaps a gift, Herodias has her daughter (from her first marriage) dance for Herod. Jewish historian, Josephus, tells us the daughter’s name was Salome, and she would have been anywhere between 14-15 years old. Though the passage doesn’t say it, I’m inclined to think this dance was lascivious in nature. When you consider the atmosphere the dance was being performed in and Herod’s sexual tendencies, one can only assume this 15-year-old’s presence wasn’t simply an innocent case of a proud step-dad admiring his step-daughter’s cute dance moves. Whatever the case may be, Herod was so pleased with her dance that he promises with a public oath to give her whatever she wants. He even offers to split his kingdom in half and give it to her if she so requests.
Pause here for a second and take in this moment.
Think about the potential fortune that just landed in this teenage girl's lap. Salome has just been offered an opportunity of a lifetime. Though I agree with those who point out that Herod’s statement might have been spoken in a drunken state, or perhaps even just as a figure of speech, there’s still plenty of reason to believe he would have honored a portion of whatever request she made.
Salome at first makes what seems to be a smart move. She consults with her mom. Sounds like a smart move so far, right? Herodias, in this moment, also has the opportunity to pass on to her daughter a legacy that could sustain her for years to come by suggesting something wise to request (perhaps a small financial fortune that could last her for years?). But remember that Herodias has been nursing a deep grudge, and people who nurse grudges and bitterness are not visionaries and can’t see past their own spite. They only know how to pass on their bitterness. This unfortunately is going to result in a tragic missed opportunity and a damning legacy for both her and her daughter. According to Mark 6:24-25, Herodias counsels her daughter to request for the head of John the Baptist.
Did you catch that?
My heart sinks as I think of this request, which by the way, the king reluctantly grants. Think about it, not only has mom just squandered whatever blessings her daughter could have inherited from the king, but Herodias has just passed on deep bitterness and grudge (not to mention murder) from one generation to the next!
What lessons do you think Salome (at a very young age) learned about men from this event? How do you think she’s going to approach men later on in life when she really wants something for herself?
Ever met a really bitter manipulative woman (or man for that matter) who uses their sexuality as a deadly weapon? That’s Salome. You wanna know what the sad part is about people who end up like this? Their baggage more than likely all started with an emotionally unhealthy and unavailable mom or dad.
Herod, Herodias, and Salome’s story struck a chord with me, not because my son has ever asked for his classmate’s head on a platter, but because it’s made me more attentive to the lessons my sons are picking up, just from observing my life.
I mentioned earlier that my older friend/mentor shared with me an eye-opening encouragement. Here’s what he said when I expressed my parenting fears about passing on my emotional junk unto my kids:
He had a way with words.
Upon further discussion, I came to understand what he was getting at. It is virtually impossible to raise children without “dropping the ball” several times. They will see and experience us at our best and they will see and experience us at our worst. When one lives in such close proximity to another human (however little they may be), it’s inevitable that our unresolved junk will ooze.
But that’s where Jesus Christ comes in.
Along with salvation to eternal life, several stories in the scriptures indicate that He’s also in the restoration business.
- Peter had a problem with his mouth and often spoke up when he should have kept shut, yet Jesus said of him “…upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”
- Nathaniel was prejudiced, yet Jesus said of him, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel--a man of complete integrity.”
- Mary Magdalene had 7 demons. Jesus expelled all of them out of her. She never left his side and was rewarded with the privileged of being the first person to see the resurrected Christ.
- James and his bro, John, had some serious anger issues, yet Jesus called them to be part of his inner squad!
If you share my (potentially unrealistic) fear as a parent, my point here is this; THERE’S HOPE FOR US!
Jesus can undo any mess we create. He loves our children more than we could ever imagine, even more than we do. So rather than spending our time worrying about what we might get wrong, what if we set our kids up for a future-win by focusing on bringing/introducing them to Jesus.
I once heard success defined, not as the sum of all you accomplish in this life, but as what you leave behind and what people say about you when you’re gone. So how rewarding would it be, long after you and I are boxed up in the earth, our kids stand up and say:
Now that’s an ending worth striving for as a parent.
So, put your worries aside fellow-dads (and moms), and let's do this, yo!
Husband. Dad. Pastor. Nigerian American. Storyteller. Aspiring Prayer Warrior. Steak Lover. Follower of Jesus Christ reminding you that God the Father still loves you.