Every single one of us has made mistakes. We have things in our past we are less than proud of. But should we tell our kids about our past?
One weekend at church, a husband and wife shared a vulnerable story of how the husband cheated on his wife for years. When the wife found out the devastating news, she felt called by God to stay in the marriage and pray for her husband’s repentance.
She prayed for years, with no restoration in sight.
That’s when their daughters, also heartbroken because of their father’s actions, began praying. This family needed God to create purity inside of a marriage that seemed broken beyond repair.
This family was in the audience to tell their story. Thankfully, this meant the husband realized what he was doing was wrong and repented from his actions with a desire to be restored to his family.
I realize not every story of adultery ends like this. I remember the painful decision my stepfather made to leave our family when I was in eighth grade. While not every story ends on a happy note, our communities are full of imperfect people making devastatingly painful mistakes but choosing to not be defined by them.
What we can tell our kids about our past
Mistakes and pain can label us, but our children need to hear ways we are overcoming. Labels can limit us and keep us chained to our past. Labels can make it hard to live optimistic lives full of hope.
But our children will never tire of hearing how we have been made new.
One of the definitions for new is “not found exactly like we were before.” The mistakes of our past can make us into new people, not being defined by our sin or the sin that’s been done to us.
Following this family’s testimony, I shared a bit of my own story. How I went from being angry towards my stepfather for leaving, to seeing where his absence may have served for my protection.
We all have a before and after story—a newness that shows we are different. What about you? Do your past failures and losses still define you?
After sharing my story, the husband said, “Today my name changed from ‘Adulterer’ to ‘Faithful Husband.’” Even though this husband and father had lived in repentance for years, he struggled to see himself as forgiven and new. He had a hard time forgiving himself for his years of unfaithfulness to his wife and daughters.
Even sharing his testimony at church was a painful reminder of his sin and past labels. But on this day, something new happened. He knew his name was no longer “Unfaithful,” “Absent,” “Selfish,” or “Failure.” The name he heard for himself was “Faithful Husband,” and his outlook changed.
We’re being made new
Our children need to hear how our decisions for health and wholeness make us into new people. Maybe we have been absent, choosing more time at the office than at home with them. Perhaps we have spent more time on our phones and answering emails than we have spent looking them in their eyes. Maybe your story is similar to this father who has chosen another family over your own.
Whatever your wrong decisions were, you do not need to be defined by them any longer. It is never too late to be remade. You are never too old to live a new way.
We need to tell our kids about our past. Because our children want to see present-day examples of us becoming better people than we were the day before. This models to them that while they make mistakes, they do not need to be defined by theirs either.
Saying sorry and receiving forgiveness
We can set an example in how to offer an apology, being the first to admit when we are wrong. But saying sorry is only the first step. Leaving labels behind and living new is the second.
This man received forgiveness from his family, but he began to forgive himself when he left the label “Adulterer” behind and took on a new name, “Faithful Husband.” I could see nobody was happier to hear of this newness than his wife and daughters. When we tell our kids about our past, our children can become our biggest cheerleaders. Even when we have previously let them down.
Learning new habits
When we live out of our old labels, we can stay stuck. But the victim can become victorious. We can all learn new habits. Marriages can be restored and families can be reconciled. Are we willing to leave old labels behind, and choose a new way for our children to see us?
No matter the painful choices we’ve made and no matter what’s been done to you, it’s never too late to live new. We all need a fresh start. Leave old labels behind and no longer be defined by the mistakes of your past. Choose a new path for generations behind you to follow in.
Your children will thank you for it.
Copyright © 2020 by Esther Fleece Allen. Used with permission.
CNN has called Esther Fleece Allen one of “Five Women to Watch in Religion,” USA Today has named her one of the “New Faces of Evangelicalism” and Christianity Today has called her “one of the 50 women shaping the church and culture.” Esther is a graduate of the Oxford Center of Christian Apologetics and is currently in seminary. Her favorite new names are “wife” and “mama.” For more information visit www.EstherFleeceAllen.com.