Tim and Karen Beaty are wonderful people. They spend their mornings with God, perched in their respective comfy spots. They frequently tell my brother and me that they love us. They do the same to each other. They have cared for my grandparents, absorbing the pain of watching them age and pass away. They've taken us hiking and birdwatching in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. I count them among the great blessings of my life.

And until about age 25, I thought Tim and Karen were basically perfect—that when they gave me advice, it was right; that our relationship couldn't get any better. Psychologists call this idealization. In layman's terms, it means I put my parents on a pedestal. When I got old enough to see the Beatys not just as my mom and dad, but as distinct creatures with their own inner worlds and lives, the pedestal started to break; the ideal had a crack running through it. I began to see them as mere humans, and it stung.

Leslie Leyland Fields, who wrote this month's cover story, never had a chance to idealize her father. Abuse and abandonment kept her and her five siblings from ever forming a loving bond with their dad. Even as an adult, when Leslie determined to forgive him and reenter his life, he was defensive and disinterested. But a shift happened in Leslie:

I began to see him more fully. I realized I was not the only one jumped, robbed, and bleeding beside the road: he lay there too. . . . I was laying down his selfishness and crimes, and leaving them in the hands of God.

A central truth of the gospel is that every one of us, parent and child, bears the mark of original sin. Sinners are always raised by sinners. The magnitude of the sin is different in each family, but seeds of selfishness, impatience, and malice are in them all. Without the intervening grace of God—whether by common grace or the grace of salvation—we're doomed to repeat the mistakes of the generations before us.

Another central truth of the gospel is that grace is enough to pull us out of the muck of sin into a glorious life in Christ. It's what made Dietrich Bonhoeffer not just an eccentric dissident obsessed with fashion but a hero of the faith. It's what can make parenting not an elusive quest for "happiness" but a journey of joy. It's what makes the church not a squabbling social club but a loving family. And it's what empowers my parents and me to accept and enjoy one another after nearly 30 years of life together, mere humans though we are.

Katelyn Beaty is managing editor of CT print. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynBeaty.

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