Children have much clearer vision than many of us adults. Even though they certainly have less information and experience, their eyes are not yet clouded by the effects of habitual concealment and denial, sin-born responses that come naturally to all but are reinforced into “that’s how it’s done” status by observation.
With this clear vision of heart, kids can acutely detect deception. Consequently, pretending everything is okay in front of my kids is truly pointless; the comfort I claim is theirs as my justification just isn’t real. I tell myself I’m protecting them, but in fact, posing like that is destructive to their hearts because they see the truth but perceive my endorsement to turn from it. At such a young age, they usually don’t have the perspective or tested relationship with God needed to cling to objectivity or resist influence.
So why do I sometimes hide from them how I’m feeling, stressful issues we’re dealing with, unknowns floating around in my head? Because the fact that I just don’t know what to do feels embarrassing, and that reveals something. I’ve been holding this hidden, self-centered posture inside that I am the rule-maker, the reality-definer, the ultimate force in the home. Shining light on my own weakness exposes that posture as fraudulent and, I tell myself, makes me impotent as a father (not to mention as a husband, but that’s another article). But that is simply a lie! I have to be a servant – of God and of my family. (Mark 9:35-36) My whole role as their earthly father, our whole role as a family, is to love them, point them to Jesus, and train them by word and action how to live; including what to do when I stumble.
The truth is, my kids need the real me. Life is work. While circumspect about the details I share with them, it is critically important to their trust and our relationship that I do let my children see my life, including difficult parts like confusion, doubt, mistakes, struggle, pain and how they can live through those crazy squalls without defeat or hopelessness. There is a wonderful design to life, including the awful times that hurt and break me, and the Lord has his arm around me in the middle of it all. That is a beautiful, joyful truth! And it can only be discovered through honestly experiencing hardship. I need to let my kids see so my guidance and love won’t evaporate as irrelevant when they encounter the mess of their own difficulty. I deeply long for my children to live healthy lives in reality, but first I have to live there myself.