How do we speak from failure with integrity?

WorldproofingWe 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 this website. And I’m wondering whether to include my first book or not when I officially launch in the next few weeks.

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? Offer messages about passing a Christian worldview on to your kids?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

10 thoughts on “How do we speak from failure with integrity?

  1. Lael, in your book do you ever claim to have the perfect son? Do you pretend to be the perfect parent? Do you write of absolutes (A+B=C, no exceptions?) Does “Worldproofing” line up with scripture and with what parents need to know? If you fail to include this book on your website, then no one should ever write from a personal perspective because there may be “failures” ahead in their lives. Their marriages might be rock-solid, their books on marriage sell a kajillion copies, and then their relationship implodes. No one could ever write a book if they ask “What if…” before they give advice. And that’s my advice.

    • Thanks so much for your advice, Patty. No, I tried very hard in Worldproofing to *not* present teaching worldview as a formula. We don’t insert precepts and curriculum here and get a guaranteed result there. Even when it comes to Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it,” I’ve always presented that as godly wisdom that is generally true, but not a personal promise, as are all Solomon’s proverbs. But then the question is, can we ever fail so badly that our lives discredit our words? Should pastors remain in the pulpit after a private affair becomes public?

  2. I have not read your book. I will now. My opinion is that there are still people that will be reading your messages for the first time. Your wisdom can be given for many years to come. Gods word does not change; culture changes, people change and usually not for the good. I feel that for those of us that are new to your books or messages, it is important to know it all. To be able to see your journey. If you leave part of that out we cannot see the whole picture. I have an advantage in that I know part of your history. Others do not. Please continue to offer the book.

    • Thank you so much for your advice, Ellen. Especially as someone who is new to my books. I value your insight about having the whole picture of our journey. I hope it is a blessing to you.

  3. Lael, I applaud you for posing this question. Your transparency and desire for input from your readers speaks volumes of your integrity. I wholeheartedly feel you should include this book, because it’s a part of your body of work, a part of your story, a part of you. It also has excellent content that new readers need.

  4. What does God control?
    What does God ordain?
    What does God allow?
    Everything, and our children are included in everything.
    I pray for my children who are not walking with the Lord every day, I sometimes weep and pray, but I sleep well at night because God is in control of their salvation, not me.
    It is a privelege to “get to” help someone know what it means to repent and believe.
    But, ultimately, it is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself that does the saving of a soul.
    Not me.
    AND He knows what it will take to get that person saved, I don’t.
    So, we gotta just trust Him. period
    When we witness to someone, or raise someone up in the way they should go and they reject it, it is Gods will being done.
    If we have been faithful to tell them the truth (and even if we haven’t) there is no more we can do but pray and trust.

    If we have a prodigal child, it is likely that they have not walked away from saving faith, I don’t believe that is possible.
    It is most probable that they were not saved, truly soundly saved to begin with, that is, not aware of their own sin and therefore not truly repentant. Knowledge of sin and true Repentance toward God for sinning against Him are required for salvation.

    I have found that many children raised in church, believe they are saved because of that fact. They think that they are good because of works, church, behavior, repeating the sinners prayer, and are saved.
    They do not realize that they are sinners in need of a savior because they have always been “good”.
    Not believing in themselves that the Bible is speaking to them:
    “no one does good, not one”, “all have sinned and fall short…”
    Give them the law, the ten commandments and when they realize that they have not kept it and are in debt to a Holy God who requires perfection, that cannot be obtained….they will see their own wretchedness and their need for the Savior to pay the price that they cannot.
    Give them Jesus and they will HAVE a Christian worldview.

  5. Lael, I’m one of your AWSA sisters and really appreciated this blog of yours that I just read. All of us fail at times, and when we can admit it, it makes us more real and more relate-able. I think you should continue to offer this book AND speak on it with the addition you mentioned. I think you have an even more powerful testimony/teaching ability on this now because you can tell others that following certain guidelines or steps in your book is never a guarantee of how our children will turn out because they make their own choices and you have first-hand experience with that. You may find you can relate to a much wider audience now, too. Blessings to you, my friend. I appreciate your honesty and integrity.

    • Thank you for thinking about this, Cindi, and offering your thoughts. Our vulnerability and God’s grace is a powerful combination. Just was thinking about that this past Sunday when one of our elder’s shared his story of failure and God’s grace.

  6. I have just read a section you wrote in A Faith and Cultural Devotional. Belief Knowledge and Truth. I was very much challenged to examine the reality I may have constructed and what greater reality God may be inviting me into. I am still pondering this. Thankyou for your insights and sharing them.
    I came to your Facebook page because of your application of God’s truth in His word to life in a real and honest manner. I wanted to find out more.
    I have not read your book that you are discussing but I would encourage you to add it to your Website. God’s grace is seen all the more clearly against the backdrop of our failures when they are brought to Him. Would it be helpful to add some of the insights you have discovered on your journey with your Son on a link adjacent to the book . Your openness and honesty gives others permission to discuss struggles in their life’s journey with God.
    I also feel your Son’s journey is with God and does not reflect a failure on your part. I too have an adult Prodigal Son. A wise friend told me she humbly prays asking God to make up for her discrepancies as a parent. She is a godly christian women who recognises her humanity and trusts in Gods Sovereignty completely.
    I was pondering your comments about Gordon Mc Donald and I think in the past I would have agreed with Chuck Swindol but the thought of King David’s sin came to mind. God did not remove Him from his position / throne. Stunning Grace to lead him to repentance . Scripture also shows us the consequences of his action followed their course , but David dealt with them as “a man after God’s own heart”. Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts. I look forward to reading more of your material.

    • Thanks for your feedback, Janice. I so appreciate how you connected the dots that brought you to this post. I’m just rebranding and relaunching my website so you’ve given me a gift in telling me that.

      The thing is, none of us are perfect parents. I see so many failures and weaknesses in my younger self that I did not see back then. So I’m prone to think those things contributed to my son’s decisions. Only God knows. I love what Ruth Graham’s friend told her about Franklin during his prodigal years: Even our failures are part of the “all things” God is working together for good in their lives and ours. We have seen God use our experience with Zach in so many fruitful ways in our ministries over the last ten eyars. For one, we offer so much more grace to others, as we have received and needed it ourselves.

      I love your idea about connecting the book and messages about Worldproofing to a page on my website that adds insights from our continued journey. Thanks for the suggestion and I hope you will continue to be in touch.