From Works to Grace in Parenting

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I grew up in a home to former hippies who were pursued by Jesus through mishaps, a life of drug use, and relationship despair.  I grew up believing that Jesus is the answer to our loneliness, grief and anger.  I believed fully in the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives and I wanted to be a missionary at an early age because I couldn’t imagine a life more fulfilling than telling others about God’s love and seeing that message change lives.

However, I also believed that obedience to God was the way I earned his favor and approval.  I believed that a life lived for Jesus was good works and I often feared what God was thinking about me at that moment.  Would he be looking at me with disapproval or joy?  This thinking eventually wore me out and during my Christian college experience, I became complacent and lazy in my faith- even though I still believed.  I felt exhausted with trying to be good all the time.

Through my early 20’s, I struggled on and off with this concept.  How do I know if I can be good enough for Jesus to be pleased with me?  What if I do a good deed with selfish motives?  What if my heart is in the right place, but I hurt someone’s feelings anyway?  

When my husband and I started having kids in our mid-twenties, I was determined to have kids that obeyed their parents- just like we need to be obedient to Jesus.  I read books that went along with this thinking and demanded perfection from my kids.  To those of you who have kids, you know that this was impossible and left me feeling like a terrible mother most days.  How could I get them to “listen and obey?” 

When my boys were 3 and 5, God was very clear to both my husband and I at the same time that He is a very different parent than we.  I was looking for obedience, while God is after our hearts.  I was wanting our kids to see clearly how good they have it with punishment and condemnation, while God woos us to himself with his love for us and continues to show us patience and gentle discipline as our Father.  I thought that a heart of joy and love followed behavioral obedience.  However, scriptures teach us that we are loved and accepted through Christ, and that our obedience flows out of that faith.

I am gradually learning how to parent with grace and love, rather than striving for a perfect looking home.  I fail often, feel despair often, and struggle with finding my identity in being a good parent.  But I am reminded again and again, through Scripture, prayer, and community, that our hope is not in what we do, but in what Jesus did.  He took on our failings, weaknesses, weight and sin because he loves us perfectly and delights in us fully.  We are loved and pursued and accepted by our good Father through his son, Jesus Christ.  He is after our hearts! And that’s the kind of love I try to show our kids, through God’s grace.  

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.