Last week, during WGA’s first ever webinar, I related a part of my own process in leading up to writing about our topic,My 4 Year-old Is Touching Himself Down There: What do I do?”  Written several years ago, this particular blog has been the most read page on the WGA website.

This blog article was written off the top of my head after a few days in a row of hearing story after story from people who were struggling intensely.  I cried and prayed and wondered what might have prevented so much relational misery.

Early childhood came to mind.

In 1972, I was a new Christian.  I was working full-time, four months into my second marriage.  I had two children of my own, a 9 yr old girl and a 6 yr old boy, and my husband was awarded custody of his four boys, ages 15, 13, 9, and 4—that was the tipping point that brought me to Christ.

Overwhelmed with the prospect of step-parenting, and wanting desperately to know the Lord’s way of raising children, I eagerly signed up for a class during Sunday School hour:  Steps to Effective Parenting. With my new notebook and Bible in hand, I was all ready to find out how to parent as a Christian.

Imagine my shock at the first class, almost in the first fifteen minutes, the teacher said, “By the time your child is 5 years old, their brain is already formed, some attitudes are set.”    My youngest was 4 ½! 

With a sinking feeling of dread, I thought, “It’s too late!  But I still have 6 kids to do the best I can with!  What am I going to do?”

A mentor wisely did not try to talk me out of this awful realization:  all the past mistakes I had made had already had their impact on my kids and I was powerless to do anything about it.  Instead she pointed me to a few scriptural principles from Isaiah, Joel, and Proverbs.

First Principle, from Isaiah 1:18a

The context is right smack in the middle of the chapter where the Lord is chastising his people for ignoring Him by pretend worshipping while going right on sinning.  Here, in six different versions of the Bible, you can see there is no ambiguity in what the Lord says:

“Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out.” (MSG)

“Come, let us consider your options,” says the Lord. (NET)

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord.  (NIV)

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. (RSV)

“Come now, let us reason together,” saith the Lord.  (KJV)

“Come now, and let us reason together,” saith Hashem. (OJB)

Lesson learned from Isaiah 1:18a:

If the Lord makes this point so strongly about thinking, reasoning, considering options, arguing it out with Him, don’t you think He would be glad and eager to be a part of your parenting?  In fact, as He is continuing to parent you, you can pass that right on to your kids as you parent them, in His wisdom, grace, and truth.

Second Principle, from Isaiah 43 and Joel 2:25

the context in these passages are of great loss and hardship and seeming to be no way to get through it.  Yet, in impossible circumstances, the Lord makes a way!

Lesson learned from Isaiah 43 and Joel 2

Especially when things look hopeless and it is clearly “too late” that is when it is the exact right time to look for and you will find God’s provision for “making a way where there is no way” and “making streams in a desert” and “restoring to us the years the Locusts had eaten.

Third Principle, from Proverbs 19:21

here is a simple statement and promise, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”  Could it possibly be true that all the mistakes I had made, all the consequences that currently complicated the lives of my children couldn’t erase God’s purposes?

Lesson learned from Proverbs 19

Though your failures can certainly complicate things, and cause needless pain and suffering in your own and your children’s lives, it remains true that you can’t mess things up so bad that it could destroy God’s purposes …. that is exactly what scripture says! 

Back to my situation, sitting stunned in a parenting class where I had just learned it was too late for me to learn to be a successful parent.  Yes, I was powerless in the situation and there had been a lot of water under the bridge, some of it already threatening to drown my family.

But, I wasn’t alone – the all powerful One would enter the picture at my invitation and be the Guide, the Restorer, the Healer, the Comforter.  And He would make a way, redeem lost years, pull it all into His purposes, which He himself said would be accomplished.  (Proverbs 19:21)

Armed with these basic principles, I turned to whatever task was at hand in my parenting, in all of my life.  I made lots of mistakes, . . . . still do. . .  ., I learned from them,  . . .and the Lord is still redeeming.


Mary Heathman

Mary Heathman

Founding Director

Mary is one of the founders of Where Grace Abounds and served as Executive Director from its inception on July, 1986 through March 31st, 2007.  She speaks and teaches at churches and conferences across the country. She has also served on several boards of non-profit organizations, is a conference speaker on a variety of topics that include: Intimacy with God, Healthy Sexuality, and leadership development.  Currently serving in leadership in her denomination, Mary’s favorite ministry roles are discipleship counseling, group facilitation, and leadership development.

Mary often characterizes herself as “a seeker of Truth” and has a long-standing fascination with human behavior and motivation.  Her education consists of lay and discipleship counseling, independent study about the integration of psychology and theology, counseling and human sexuality. She also holds a BS in Human Services and an MA in Psychology from Regis University.

Mary attends a Friends (Quaker) Church.

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