“So many Christian parents fall into the trap of asking the law to do in the hearts of their children what only grace can accomplish.” – Paul David Tripp (taken from the book endorsements on the first page)
This quote from Paul David Tripp exactly summarizes a common struggle in parenting our children in this world. Our society emphasizes success, click accomplishments, and “rules” to live by. But the world (and us, in the process) forgets about grace.
I struggle with this sometimes too. As a rule follower myself (sometimes to the point of fault), how much do I impose strict rules on my children, expecting those rules to establish boundaries and grow “good” character?
Rules are needed – for children and adults. Boundaries can be helpful. But grace is essential. And grace does not come from our own efforts, but instead only from God.
“He has seen all your sin: your selfishness, anger, laziness, and pride, and he has loved you.” – p. 29
My son is young. At his toddler phase, we’re only beginning to firmly address corrective discipline. But when we know “discipline” means “to train,” my husband and I have been training his heart from the first day. And God has been training our hearts through His merciful grace from the beginning of time.
This training involves enduring much failure. When my children choose to disobey or rebel, will I encourage Cain-like behaviors because I have put so much focus on “idolizing approval” or seeking righteousness by works? (See pages 40-41.) Or will I respond with God’s goodness (since I have none on my own) and point them to the saving nature of God’s grace, not our own proactive or reactive deeds.
“But Jesus wouldn’t idolize God’s approval; instead, he would worship God and love us.” (p. 42)
We love because God loves us (1 John 4:19). We love others because we worship this God who lavishes grace. We can love in the first place because God pours His love through us.
These rules I teach to my children are important, but we must always have the foundation of grace behind every action, every word. Or else we’re just following a guidebook, rather than Love. If we follow these rules and feel we obtain success, we lose sight of the vast need we all have for His saving grace.
“The one encouragement we can always give our children (and one another) is that God is more powerful that our sin, and he’s strong enough to make us want to do the right thing…Our encouragement should always stimulate praise for God’s grace rather than for our goodness.” (p. 43)
What can a grace-focused heart change in my parenting? It can change my view of how I parent as God’s daughter. Change me to view my children with grace-colored eyes, rather than obedience-only focus. Change me to remember that our obedience is spurred on only by His grace.
“Our children aren’t innately good, and we shouldn’t tell them that they are. But they are loved and if they truly believe that, his love will transform them.” (p. 43, emphasis added)
I strive and fail – often – in this parenting adventure. And my children will fail, too. But, we are all loved – loved through grace, loved by God, loved eternally. It is that love that will make us good in His timing.
What is God teaching you through Chapter 2 of Give Them Grace?
If you missed the preview post of Chapter 1, go back and read Jodi’s amazing post!
Caroline is wife, homeschooling momma to a toddler son, writer, certified personal trainer, and former physical education teacher – and a child constantly in need of grace. She blogs at Under God’s Mighty Hand