I started reading Give Them Grace recently, expecting to learn a better balance between consistent discipline and second…or third, chances. Instead, I crashed hard into the revelation that my parenting is about as much “Christian,” as childbirth is “fun.”
What’s missing? The Gospel. The real, present power of the Gospel, and not just in my communication with Norah, but in my own heart. I have idolized good behavior (the book calls this “good parenting in, good child out”). I have exchanged the truth for a lie. I have stood on the shaky foundation that if I’m a good parent, my kids will end up being good, Jesus-loving, world-changing people. When actually, God never promised me that. The truth is, there are no promises in the Bible that even our best parenting will produce good children. (Yes, some of you are recalling a verse in Proverbs that says if we train a child in the way he should go, he will not depart from it, but the proverbs are wise sayings, not conditional promises.) As hard as I try, I will never be a good enough mommy to save and redeem my children. And that’s not discouraging, it’s liberating, because Jesus is good enough! His death is good enough. His grace is good enough.
I won’t spoil too much of the book, but I will share some of the ways it has realigned my heart, exposing my own idolatry and self-dependency, and allowing the Holy Spirit to begin invading the moments of Norah’s disobedience and speaking into the times of discipline.
Two months shy of 2 years old, Norah is in the thick of the “fit-throwing” stage. She walks into the room with her box of cereal. “No cereal, Norah, it’s almost time for dinner.” Cue fit. She swipes my iPhone when I’m not paying attention. “No phone right now Norah, we are going to play with something else together.” Wait for it…and…fit! I smell something with a slightly offensive odor. “Norah, mommy needs to change your diaper, please come here.” There it is, the GIANT fit. My instinctual response to her fits is this: frustration, embarrassment, exhaustion, and impatience. My response when I’m living my day centered on what the Gospel of God’s grace has done for me is this: empathy and repentance. Rather than being overwhelmed by her misbehavior, the Holy Spirit overwhelms me with the weight of my own sin and the abundant grace gifted to me that lifts the weight away. You see, like Norah, I throw fits with God. When He says, “wait,” I throw a fit. When He takes something away that I think I really want, I throw a fit. When He leads me into a situation that I don’t like, or His spoken promises over my life are not fulfilled according to my expectations or my time frame, I throw a fit.
It may not look like Norah’s fits–you won’t find me throwing my head back and thrashing my body around on the floor (hopefully)–but my heart is thrashing and struggling in the same way. What you will see is my heart hardening, bitterness trying desperately to take root, and a strong apathy fighting to gain control of the purpose and vision God has put on my life. I make sure He knows I’m upset, usually by some form of the silent treatment. I start distrusting Him. I doubt His character–the character that has been proven consistent and unchanging to me day after day, year after year.
Then He disciplines me in the sweetest, most loving way. He gets my attention. He draws me close. He opens my blinded eyes to my sin. He leads me with His kindness to repentance. He forgives me. He makes me new.
This is the grace I want Norah to see living in me. Not just the grace of the second chance…or third chance. The grace that grabs me the first time. The grace of an undeserved love and unearned sacrifice that draws me out of the pit, leaving my sin down there, buried and forgotten. The grace that gives me the power to overcome the sin that awaits me up ahead.
I’m tired of fighting for good behavior from Norah. It won’t satisfy me and it won’t save her. Rather, thanks to the Holy Spirit, and in faith, I’m filled up and overflowing with the strength and power to choose to grab Norah with each act of disobedience and fall back together into the grace of the Gospel of Jesus.