Amy and Skyla JuneI am beyond blessed to have such an amazing sister...beyond blessed to have her live only 20 minutes from me...beyond blessed to spend many mornings talking, sipping coffee, and watching all our girlies play...beyond blessed to share the journey of motherhood with her. She recently posted this on her blog (which you must check out) and I had to share it with you...
Give them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, I decided to read it myself and see what it was all about. Just the fact that a mother and a daughter wrote a book about parenting together grabbed my attention from the start. This happened about the same time I had my second daughter, so I was somewhat (ok all the way) sleep deprived, and at somewhat (ok all the way) at a loss of how to love two children at the same time with patience and grace.
With both of these things going on, I was blown away. There were definitely points that I was floored and humbled as a mom. First, floored that God in His graciousness has even allowed me to be a mom, and second humbled that I had been thinking I knew what I was doing as that mom. And then I started to notice my language and attitude in the way I parent.
So much of the way I talk is “I, I,I” and the way I talk to my daughters is “you, you , you”. This is where I started to slowly (and continue to very slowly) realize what grace is and is not. Grace is a free gift from God (Eph 2:8). Free, as in no cost. There is nothing I can do as a mom that is “good” There is nothing that my little girls can do that is “good” (Rom 3:12). That is without Jesus.
This is liberating news as a mom, and freeing news as a child. Fitzpatrick says in her book, “The good news of God’s grace is meant to permeate and transform every relationship we have, including our relationship with our children. All the typical ways we construct to get things done and get others to do our bidding are simply obliterated by a gospel message that tells us that we are all both radically sinful and radically loved. At the deepest level of what we do as parents, we should hear the heartbeat of a loving, grace giving Father who freely adopts rebels and transforms them into loving sons and daughters.”
This is the message that my children need to hear from me daily, not the message that if they dont do “good” i will be disappointed with them. I want my children to care far more about what God thinks, than what I think (1 Cor 10:31). I don’t want my children to “behave” just to make me happy. I don’t want my children to have the idea that they are chalking up points with me, or God.
In our home, Adina (our almost 4 year old) has been memorizing the 10 commandments. And while it is very cute that she knows them all and can recite them when asked, what we want her to know more than just what the laws are is that none of us obey them perfectly (Js 2:10), ever, except Jesus (2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 1:22). And even though we will never obey them perfectly, Jesus still loves us.
Fitzpatrick says, “Even though our children cannot and will not obey God’s law, we need to teach it to them again and again. And when they tell us that they cant love God or others this way, we are not to argue with them. We are to agree with them and tell them of their need for a Savior.”
It is a popular idea in our culture that children just need to have good self esteem. That little girls are princesses and little boys are warriors and need to be told all the time that they are “good” little girls and boys. Children long to be told that they were good during the day, or as my daughter puts it when she is about to be disciplined “I promise Ill be a good girl”.
Really, Christ is the only good one. Our children are not innately good (Ps 51:5; Eph 2:3). And telling them they are over and over again only reaffirms that they don’t really have a need for grace. Children are not good, but they are loved. If they truly start to believe this, Jesus’ love and grace will start to change their little hearts. With Jesus grace and love as the basis of a child's motivation, the actions are so much sweeter.
In our home we have started to back off from the “good” language and encourage our daughter to rely on Jesus to help her. It is really amazing what happens. Just simple things like, “Jesus is helping you to be so loving to your sister today” to “I think you should pray and ask Jesus to give you more patience with your mommy.”
There is Something about even a 3 year old positioning herself to prayer that softens her heart almost instantly (sometimes are harder than others, of course) and enables her to have a different and more loving outlook on whatever the situation at hand may be. Talking a lot about grace starts to foster a place where a child can be honest in dealing with their heart and be open to letting Jesus help them. And this is where our children can start to get a glimpse of what God’s grace is.
There are day to day things that our children need, like sleep, food, care, protection, and of course some rules set up to create an atmosphere where these things can take place. But what they need most of all is the gospel of grace.
Some parents may think that parenting with grace is just a different way of saying that you are giving your child a free pass to figure things out on their own and hopefully that will be Jesus in the end. But really, parenting by grace is just the opposite.
What they need most of all is the gospel of grace.
Fitzpatrick writes, “Giving grace to children is an exercise of faith and faith is always more difficult than works. It flows out of humility, a character trait that none of us comes by naturally. That's why most people miss it and why works, not faith, is the stumbling block at the cross. You are not slacking off when you tell them of his dazzling love. You are doing the hardest thing.”
My encouragement to you who are parents, and you who are going to be someday is to excite your children about the cross of Christ. Talk about Jesus a lot in your home. Encourage your children to run to Jesus and receive His grace when they may be flourishing and when they may be failing. And the amazing thing about all of this is that as a parent, we get to be amazed as well. Because God’s grace never runs up. There is more than enough for our babies and for us.