As we get older, we realize more and more how much we have picked up from our parents. We exhibit the same behaviors, the same traits. We use the same words. We are just doing what was modeled for us. If our parents’ behavior was good and acceptable and their words were appropriate and sound, then we’re in good shape. But what if the behavior or the words aren’t? How many of us have said, “I will not be like my mother/father?” I’m sure we all have done that. Let’s face it, our children our sponges. They watch us. They learn from us. And they copy us. Maybe not right now, but they will. So when I read a verse like the following, it hurts:
Therefore, thus says the LORD,
“Behold, I am laying stumbling blocks before this people
And they will stumble against them,
Fathers and sons together;
Neighbor and friend will perish.”
– Jeremiah 6:21, NASB
God was judging His people. Judah was going to pay the price for its iniquity. And here we’re told that fathers and sons would stumble together. Which raises the question, “Why would the sons stumble?” The answer is a rather sobering one, “They were doing the same thing their fathers were doing.” As my children grow up, I can’t stop them from making a poor choice. But I can stop them from emulating their father who makes that same poor choice. And I stop them from doing that by not making that poor choice. The fathers described here were not doing that. They were making poor choices. As a result, their sons likely followed suit. So not only were the fathers raising God’s anger towards themselves, but they were causing their sons to do the same. Not good. And not very fatherly.
So often we are resistant to change because it’s uncomfortable. And that includes bringing our lives in line with God’s will. We don’t want to do it because it might hurt. It certainly won’t feel good. So we look for excuses. We look for “alternatives.” The thing we need to change could be something as simple as watching what we eat (a problem I have, since I still eat too much like I’m on the track and soccer teams at the same time, like I was in high school). It could be something far worse. It doesn’t matter. Sin is sin. That’s the way God looks at it. To avoid facing that reality we might even compare ourselves to others so we say, “I’m not that bad compared to…” as if we could put a scale on sin and think God is looking at the other guy because they are so much worse than we are (in our eyes). But when we do all of these things, we’re not just hurting ourselves, we are hurting our kids, too. And that doesn’t sit well with me. If you don’t have kids, you could be hurting anyone who looks to you as an example. The same thing applies.
I’m thankful for a God who accepts me, faults and all. But I’m more thankful for a God who seeks to help me improve, who gives me the strength and courage to do so, and forgives me when I falter as I try to get better. I’m thankful for a Lord who is actively working in my life to make me more like Him. And I’m thankful for a Savior who tells me that He can forgive the stumbles of my children just like He can forgive mine, if they follow Him, too. I want to be more Christlike. I want to continue moving down that path of sanctification. Not only do I want to do so in gratitude for what God has done for me, but also so that my children do not stumble because of me. I don’t want God to say, “And he and his children stumbled together.” If they do, that’s my fault. And that means I didn’t my very best to be the father God has called me to be. Lord, help me to be that father, one who emulates my Heavenly Father.