I read 2 Chronicles 33:1-20, which tells of Manasseh's reign as king of Judah. Manasseh did terribly wicked things:
* he built pagan altars in the Temple of the Lord
* he set up an idol in God's Temple
* he sacrificed his own sons in the fire
* he led the people of Judah & Jerusalem to do even more evil than the pagan nations God had destroyed when the people of Israel entered the land
The Bible says he aroused the Lord's anger! Verse 10 says the Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they ignored all His warnings! So the Lord allowed Assyria to take Manasseh prisoner.
But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and sincerely humbled himself before the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed, the Lord listened to him and was moved by his request.
(2 Chronicles 33:12-13)
Can you believe that?! After all the wicked things Manasseh had done, when he humbled himself before the Lord, God heard his prayer and rescued him, restoring him to his role as king! God's mercy is incredible!!
So after reading that, I started feeling this peace settling into my soul... that if God could forgive Manasseh, He could surely forgive an imperfect parent like me... when almost immediately the words of those parenting books came back to me, like hands around my throat, in judgement. "You can win with your kids!" they said. Yet I saw only failures; so this is what completely robs me of being able to enjoy my kids or my role as a mom.
My heart cried out, "How do I break these chains?!" I could almost feel the freedom... it was so close... like I could see Jesus' open arms, and I was moving toward Him with my arms outstretched... almost had my hands in His hands... but it was just beyond my grasp... and the enemy soldiers snatched me away and escorted me back to the POW camp.
"Help me, Jesus! What can I do?" I cried out to the Lord (instead of calling a friend or emailing a pastor).
Then He spoke to my heart: So, what are you going to believe, Sara? The books, or Me?
"You, Lord, of course," I responded. And right then, I realized that those authors weren't trying to set an impossible standard for parenting; rather, they were trying to encourage by saying, "Don't give up when the going gets tough, or when the world says your efforts won't matter. God will help you 'win' if you seek Him." [They didn't clarify that 'winning' doesn't mean your kids are perfectly behaved, or that they have 'arrived' by age 6 or 10 or 15 (or ever).]
Anyway.... God did it! He slayed that big dragon!! No more condemnation! My heart feels so light, and I have been in sweet communion with the Lord all evening. It feels wonderful! Lord, help me continue to take in Your tender mercy more and more!