We who follow Jesus have a high calling. And often a high privilege of telling others about him and his way of life, equipping or simply encouraging them on their journey. But we are all sinners, desperately in need of God’s saving grace. So when our lives haven’t aligned with the way of Jesus how do we decide if we still should speak (or write) about following Jesus in that way?
For example, How can we best honor Jesus and speak with integrity to our children about sexual purity if we were not sexually pure?
Or should we counsel and minister to other couples about how to have a strong marriage if we’ve struggled in our marriage or been separated or divorced? What if we’ve committed adultery?
Should we counsel others on how to help their children love and follow Jesus when our children have not followed him? Do we have anything to say? Should we keep silent? If not, how might we speak with integrity?
I probably have as many questions as answers on this so I’d love for you to think and engage with me on this topic…even give me your advice.
The first thing we might want to consider is…Have we taken our failure to the Lord Jesus and asked for forgiveness? And have we moved forward showing a true change of heart and life?
The very idea of integrity means oneness—our beliefs agree with our words agree with our actions. As Webster’s puts it, we are in “a state of being complete, whole, undivided.” In Titus 2 young men are encouraged to “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned (Titus 2:7-8). So, even though we may have failed in the past, even though we might be young, a spiritually mature person’s heart, good works and speech are aligned and above reproach.
Second, we need to remember that when God looks at our failures he takes the long view. In 1 Kings 9:4-5 he tells Solomon, “ And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father…”
This was the same David that lived for close to year in unconfessed sin of adultery and murder. (And there were terrible consequences: the death of his and Bathsheba’s baby. The violence in his own family. Absalom’s betrayal and attempted coup.) Yet when God looked at David’s life he saw “integrity of heart and uprightness.” Sheer grace. Stunning.
Third, is the failure something for which we are truly and completely accountable? When our children don’t walk with the Lord how much responsibility do we bear?
Which brings me to the reason I’ve been mulling this over lately: it’s personal. For the last few months I’ve been working on rebranding and relaunching my ministry website (www.laelarrington.com). And I’m wondering whether to include my first book or not.
I wrote it to help women understand a Christian worldview and pass it on to their children. The publisher rejected my working title and suggested Wordproofing Your Kids: Helping Moms Prepare Their Kids To Navigate Today’s Turbulent Times. An overstatement, to be sure, but one that helped propel the book to strong sales. An overstatement that came back to haunt me when, in his Junior year at Baylor, our son showed up mid-week and told us, “I’m not the person you think I am.”
He was the prodigal son coming home, sort of, telling us…You haven’t realized it, but I’ve been partying, living “the normal college lifestyle.” We were so grateful for his honesty. That he wanted to live with more integrity. But broken hearted that he wanted to continue to live pretty much the same. And he had walked away from Jesus.
We are all sad at times that there isn’t an easy intimacy in our relationship. As we try to connect our lives, we have to carefully navigate the differences and tension in the center. But we dearly love one another. We’re committed to openness and the conversation continues.
And so my question: Should I continue to offer this book on my new website? Should I offer speaking topics about how to pass a Christian worldview along to your kids? Since you read my blogs I thought you might have great advice for me. What do you want to hear from me? Please give me your answer in the comments below.
A few things you should know: I wrote Worldproofing when my son was in junior high school and I acknowledged that our family was still a work in progress. In chapter four I offered what I call the "Dobson Disclaimer”: "One who teaches God's word in this area is also a student and fellow traveler. God's words are true and trustworthy. He does not need me to validate His Word." This is a good word, I think, for all of us who are shepherding our children in sexual purity when we did not live it ourselves, for those of us with a story of failure and repentance.
To be a speaker and author is to be a leader. There is great disagreement on what it means to be a leader “above reproach.” Different church leadership boards make different calls. Chuck Swindoll has said that he doesn’t believe that pastor and author Gordon McDonald, who committed adultery, should have been allowed back in the pastorate. Other leaders made a different call.
After my son’s disclosure I spent months processing our journey alone with God and with wise Christian friends and books by gifted counselors. God showed me how important it is not just to teach truth to children’s minds, but to be used to connect their hearts with Christ as well. It’s an echo of my own spiritual journey that I made in the subsequent years—a journey from a passion for God’s truth as precepts and principles to a passion for God as a person.
It was a time of deep repentance and healing. And a time of learning how to live and teach truth and love. It was also a time when I felt significant responsibility for my son's choices. But also God showed me that ultimately, as they get older, they are accountable for making their own decision of whether to follow Jesus or not. The Bible is full of godly fathers whose children went astray, including God himself whose first children chose to follow the enemy instead of his loving heart.
My son has been out of college for ten years and he still considers himself an agnostic, full of more questions than answers. The only message I’ve given on Worldproofing in the last ten years is what I would add to it, given our journey with Zach.
Finally, even though writing a book is like birthing a baby, I’m really quite ready to let it go. Worldproofing has helped many families and has been used as a worldview curriculum resource for Summit Ministries and Focus on the Family Institute. But perhaps it has served its purpose.
You can’t hurt my feelings so, please, tell me what you think! Should I include the book on my new site? Include messages about passing a Christian worldview on to your kids?