When Mom and Dad Make Mistakes
Michelle Garland currently serves as the North Texas District Kids Director. Before relocating to the Dallas area, she previously served in Kids/Family Ministry for over 12 years in AZ. Michelle’s passionate about the next generation, and about equipping, challenging, and growing the leaders called to serve them.
There’s not a ton I remember from my childhood, but there is one thing I remember like it was yesterday. I was four, or maybe five, years old and my dad walked into our living room. He opened his arms wide, got down on one knee and looked and me and said, “I’m leaving.” He had made the decision to leave our family, to pursue life with another. He had found himself in the middle of an affair. In that moment, I really didn't know, or understand, the implications from this statement. However, the years to come would definitely look very different for my family.
My mother, sister, and I were left to deal with a wealth of emotions. Confusion, hurt, anger, and everything in between. It was hard. My mom was now a single parent left having to navigate the logistics of all of those implications. My sister, almost 10 years older than I am, had to step up into a role that required much more of her than just being a teenager. And me, I was just a small girl who just missed my daddy and just didn’t understand why he would choose another family over us. Were we not good enough? Was I not good enough?
As an adult, and probably more so as a parent, I realize more than ever that parents make mistakes. Small ones, big ones, crucial ones, and insignificant ones. Children are left not knowing how to deal with that. How do they process what just happened to them? How do they deal with the wealth of emotions that they might be feeling?
Here, I believe, is the most significant thing that we can do. Point them to Jesus. He feels their pain, He hurts with them, He has never left them and will never forsake them (even though their parents may). Jesus is the only one that can heal their hearts, and bring comfort to their brokenness. The only one.
And then, when we point them to Christ, the most significant thing we can teach them is: Forgiveness.
Not like an easy “forgive, forget, and move on with it” moment. No. It’s not like that. Forgiveness takes time. It takes processing. It takes work. It takes intentionality. True forgiveness requires an I accept you, I care about you, and I can even love you in spite of what you have done to hurt me. It requires them learning to accept people - in their imperfection - extending grace even if it’s not what they feel like that person deserves. It’s the only way to walk through pain and be changed for the better.
Children will be hurt. They will be treated unfairly. They will be lied to and betrayed. It’s simply the world we live in. Someday, some way, it will happen. The question then becomes how will they make it through? Teaching them to choose to forgive makes it possible for them to come out on the other side of that hurt with a heart that is whole.
If you want to invest in the spiritual health of children, point them to Jesus, and teach them to forgive.