Privileged Parenting and a Grace Perspective
Yesterday I got to have a conversation with my Hayleigh that reminded me what a privilege it is to parent. We have been having a hard time with my typically very obedient, kind-hearted daughter lately. Nothing extreme, just a bit out of character and challenging. She was sitting up in her room after an incident and I went up to talk with her. After we talked about why what she did was wrong and gave her better alternatives for next time, I told her she needed a little more time up in her room and turned to leave. She very matter-of-factly said to me “ I think I need to start reading the Bible more.” I asked her why she would say that. She tearfully replied “Because I have been doing so many naughty things lately!” My heart broke for her. I knelt back down beside her bed and had the opportunity to candidly give her the comfort and good news of the Gospel, right there in her weakness and despair. I got to hear her pray, “God, I am so sorry that I________. I don’t know why I did that. Thank you for loving me and forgiving me and dying on the cross. Thank you for helping make Braxton better (the incident involved a sibling altercation). Thank you for helping me to make good choices so that I never, ever, ever do naughty things again.” (Well….we are still working on that. Aren’t we all?) God gave me a glimpse into her heart struggle. He also let me witness her experiencing the freedom of forgiveness that only God can give! I felt as if she was praying Paul’s words directly out of scripture; Paul’s words which express our universal struggle.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15-25)
God reminded me of the perspective I need to have more often as I parent my kids. Just as I struggle with sin, often times recurring sin issues, so do they. It was humbling to see my four year old be so honest about how sorry she was about her sin and how perplexed and frustrated she was by the ongoing struggle. It is my job, but also my honor and privilege to model God’s grace to them on a daily basis. Sometimes I get so caught up in how little progress we seem to be making in certain issues. I am often tempted when they apologize to say something to the effect of “I forgive you. Now don’t let it happen again!” I realize that it may (and often times probably will) happen again. That is why they have earthly parents. That is why we have a Heavenly Father. That is why forgiveness and grace-grace for each day, each moment, is such good news. God tells us to forgive someone who sins against us not just once or even seven times, but seventy times seven times. (Matthew 18:22). Right now in my life this principle is no more applicable than in parenting my kids. I am not saying there are not consequences to their actions but there also needs to be grace.
Yesterday I needed that reminder that sin is a struggle, and not just for adults. As I told her that I struggle the same way with doing naughty things and making bad choices over and over, I saw her demeanor change. It was freeing for her to know she was not alone in her struggle and that there is an answer. I try to do my best to be humble in front of my kids and apologize when I lose my temper or have a bad attitude. I want them to know that by no means do we expect perfection. By no means do we expect more from them than we strive for ourselves. I want them to know why we all need a Savior, and that that need goes beyond saving from Hell-that we all need saving from ourselves and our sin nature on a daily basis. I don’t want my kids’ behavior to improve without any change in their hearts.
Sometimes I feel as though I am running on a hamster wheel parenting my babies. It is moments like this that remind me why God called me and gave me the amazing opportunity to be part of such moments. My mission field is not glamorous or flashy. I guess mission fields rarely are. My mission field is not made of the video footage that pulls at your heart-strings. Many people might not even know I consider myself a missionary. But I do. I have never had the opportunity to as boldly and completely present the Gospel to any peer the way I have my kids. I have never been as much entrenched in someone else’s sin struggle as I am with my kids. This is where God has me to serve and to seek and save the lost. I know as a Mommy who is prayerfully trying to reach my babies’ hearts for Jesus that my “struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12). My battle is not against bad behavior. My battle is not against my kids. My battle is for my kids. Today I am honored that God chose me to fight on behalf of my kids and train them to fight their own spiritual battles.