What tools do you employ in your tool belt of parenting? What utensils are in the kitchen drawer that you can draw on? My wife was relating to me a very interesting conversation she had with my two sons in the car the other day. It challenged us to add another tool or utensil to our arsenal.
It went a bit like this:
Thabo (age 5): Mom, would God ever embarrass me? Like by making me get married?
Lindsey (mom): Would that be embarrassing?
Garett (age 7): That’s for sure!
Then there is much giggling… and finally one shouts “Jesus is Lord!” (not sure why….remember, this is little boy land).
Lindsey: What does it mean that Jesus is Lord?
Garett: He is the king and in charge
Lindsey: What does it mean that He is the king and in charge?
Garett: We need to do what he says, we need to obey him.
Lindsey: We do need to obey God. Why do you think this is?
Boys: Cause we have to…
Lindsey: What would happen if we did not obey him?
Thabo: God will make us sick and give us diseases!
Lindsey: Well…What about Jesus dying on the cross?
Boys: Oh yeah, that is right!
Lindsey: God doesn’t make us sick or punish us. Who does he punish?
Thabo: Uh, well….Daddy?
Lindsey: No, He did that to Jesus.
Garett: Oh yes, He died on the cross!
Lindsey: He took the punishment for our disobedience because He loves us.
Thabo: That’s why we are missionaries!
As my wife related this exchange to me, it got us thinking how quickly the idea of an angry God gets embedded in us. It seems from birth the anti-grace idea is one we carry.
The subtle form of this belief is that God will only bless us if we are bigger, faster, stronger, and better than all the others. At its worst and most destructive, is a belief that as a mean and angry God, He delights in our misfortune.
We learn from our parents, the result of making mistakes is getting punished. This is part of good parenting. Giving our children boundaries and consequences if they disobey is part of our recipe for success. Punishment ensues if they cross these lines. This is how we train up a child. (Proverbs 22:6)
This conversation has led my wife and I to consider adding a utensil to our repertoire. What would happen if when we punished our kids, it involved something demonstrating grace? This would illustrate that grace is an active force in their lives training us.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. — Titus 2:11-12
Grace appeared… training us! It is an active force in our lives to help us grow and change.
Seeing a “God is the bad guy, He is out to get you,” belief engrained in my children makes me want to give this a try.
Here are several suggestions to model grace to our children:
- Tell them they will receive a punishment, but then offer to take it for them. My son Garett often loses the ability to play the iPod Touch. What if we took that punishment for him? What if he saw us unable to play and he could? Sounds a bit like Jesus taking our place.
- Have them pray, asking Jesus to change them, rather than encouraging the child to change themselves. This demonstrates that the Christian life cannot be led by our own strength. (We’ve done this one in our household!)
- Have the children apologize by naming their sin. Facing their sin helps them own it, thereby receiving the forgiveness of a parent at a deeper level.
- If someone wrongs you as a family, go the extra mile. Give the people something good, even though they don’t deserve it. This is the “heap burning coals” principle and demonstrates grace as a gift undeserved.
Today I want to challenge us as parents to use grace in our tool belt or kitchen utensil drawer. Add this to all the other instruments we have at our disposal as parents.
But do not merely put it in the belt or the drawer. Use it! Model grace to your children… And in this way reflect Christ to our disciples.