Hindsight is a funny thing. For many situations, it gives peace through its perspective. For other situations, it serves to teach a warning for the future. And for some situations, its clarity brings grief. The past years brought all three versions of hindsight into our life.
Peace through perspective:
It was incredibly frustrating to watch our efforts at fruitful parenting produce so little. As products of divorced, unbelieving, and often emotionally unstable parents, we threw ourselves into learning the biblical model of parenting and implementing it as consistently as possible. We sacrificed untold hours and innumerable plans to follow through with discipline or pursue a conversation. We apologized even when our pride told us we were in the right. We fought against the models given to us by our parents and won far more often than failed. Yet… Yet, our children appeared given to selfishness in ways we couldn’t understand. There was a constant strain of conflict that lingered beneath the surface of our home. And the deep, abiding relationships we prayed would occur between our kiddos appeared only to happen between Savannah and Ginny.
Hindsight showed us that there was a deeper enemy than mere childishness. It wasn’t that our investment was offbase or our standards too high. But when a child is in the throes of trauma, their outward behavior becomes a release for them. We weren’t dealing with chronic lying, ongoing conflict, poor choices, or persistent immaturity because our parenting was atrocious. We were dealing with all those issues, to such a high degree, because our kiddos were trying to process (but failing) the pain they were experiencing.
We still struggle with childishness. We still struggle with sin, too. There are moments of improbable selfishness or unresolved conflict. But the incidents become fewer and fewer as the natural process of maturation develops my kiddos’ conscience. With new trauma eliminated and old trauma worked through, we are beginning to heal and become a healthy family. And there is overwhelming peace that bathes my heart as I ponder those many years in the parenting trenches. We weren’t getting everything wrong.
Teach a warning for the future:
I’ve shared so many times that we truly did so much to protect our children from the monsters we thought were the true enemies. And, as I mentioned above, our desire to be wholly different parents from our own family’s of origin, meant that we pursued discussions where none existed in our childhoods. We modeled open communication. We spoke clearly and on more than one occasion about boundaries and safe versus unsafe touch. We gave our children explicit and implicit permission to say NO to anyone for anything.
And yet… it wasn’t enough.
Hindsight showed me that conversations and intentions do not equal absolute certainty. They are good to have and I would like to believe that some of the healing that took place in our sweet children’s lives was a direct result of those very talks. Once the denial was removed, they were able to quickly recognize that we meant what we said during those awkward discussions. It really was ok for them to say NO to anyone for anything. We backed up our words with swift action.
But hindsight also taught me that you can always be more diligent. There were times, without becoming paranoid, that I could have pursued a sense of foreboding with further questioning. I asked the awkward questions but because I assumed the answer was no (and let’s face it – how many times do we go into that situation assuming we’re going to learn some terrible truth?) I didn’t think I needed to push past a certain point. Now, I’ve learned a few things. Never be afraid to have the same conversation about boundaries, abuse, and appropriate touch/consent multiple times and in multiple ways. One thing all my children mentioned to me was the fear of being in trouble for lying. Because they each, at one point or another, lied to me and Joseph about their abuse, they believed they would be punished if they came forward at a later date. However, I now know that even if I had to do it all over again, and I implemented all the best parenting techniques for keeping my children safe, I still would not have a guarantee for the absolute safety of my children. Parenting is messy and scary and there is no promised security that if you dot all your is and cross all your ts, you will succeed. Christ alone brings that kind of certainty.
Clarity brings grief:
We knew something was wrong inside our family. We knew there was a hurt inside our son that nothing appeared to touch. We were desperate to get to our children’s hearts and love them. But they were, in so many ways, far beyond our reach. It still makes my heart ache to think about everything they endured – not while living in an orphanage or within the foster care system or at the hands of neglectful or abusive parents – but within a warm, tender home that longed to do nothing but love.
Hindsight brings so many pieces of the puzzle together and that, inevitably, brings grief. We mourn the missed opportunities and see ways the enemy worked hard to carry out his mission of stealing, killing, and destroying. It can be overwhelming and when left to fester in the heart, can easily lead to bitterness and estrangement from God. After all, how could a loving Savior allow the confluence of so many details that allowed the abuse of my children to proceed?
This is where the world’s wisdom and the wisdom from above diverge irrevocably.
The world says hindsight is always 20/20. It presupposed that we are able to take the perspective, lessons, and clarity given to us by it and apply it completely. We may see perfectly according to the maxim. And with perfect vision, there flows perfect understanding.
But that is not correct and even for those who do not adhere to the Bible, the inferior logic may easily be recognized. Perspective does not provide us with an all-knowing eye that can see each factor in exact detail. The lessons may be misread when the context remains shrouded behind others’ motivations or unknown actions. And clarity requires a foundation of self-awareness not guaranteed by looking at a situation in the rearview mirror. No, the world’s platitudes fall short of providing real wisdom in the face of hindsight.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
-2 Corinthians 4:17-18
I do not fixate on hindsight as my beacon of hope. I do allow it to be a tool used by my Creator and Savior to grow and succor me. But I must fix my eyes on the Author and Perfecter of my faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. By doing so, I am able to set aside the bitterness that comes with a misplaced sense of pure understanding and continue on without growing faint. [Hebrews 12:1-3]