Recently I was listening to a podcast (see link below) that made me think. As a parent, we are always teetering back and forth on this very fine line of grace and discipline. We want our kids to turn out well. To end up being good citizens of society. We want them to be able to function as adults and be a blessing to those around them. However, in having our minds so focused on the future, we can lose sight of so many things right in front of us.
When we are in the middle of parenting, we are doing our best. It is our responsibility to keep these little people alive. We have decisions to make on values, morality, discipline, and health. We are taking care of them spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Every evening we fall into bed thinking we will do better and by 10am we are wondering where it went wrong.
I am a mother of three adult children who range in age from 24 to 31. They are all married, my oldest son and his wife are starting their family and will be having their first child (our first grandchild) in July. As with most children in their twenty’s they have pulled away to find their own way and define who they are as individuals and adults. This can often be hard and even painful for a parent. It caused me to consider the way I parented. In the last few years, I have spent countless hours looking back and seeing in hindsight the things I could have done differently. God has faithfully and graciously shown me areas I did well and areas I fell short.
One area that I saw over and over, was the area where I lacked grace. I was so worried about how my kids would turn out that I was heavier on discipline and consequence than I was on love and grace. I worried more about what people thought then the lessons we could all learn along the way. I have been a Christian for many years, however, these past two years I have pursued how to be an apprentice of Jesus. I wanted to get to know Him better and how He lived while here on earth. In reading the gospels I met an entirely different Jesus than I had known before. I saw how patient he was. He was constantly extending forgiveness and grace. He took time to turn things into a teaching moments rather than a heavy hand of judgement. He was humble and kind. He sought a relationship over making a point or being right. Most importantly, He wanted to always point the way to His father.
This was so convicting to me. I had seen how I did that with the people in my life that weren’t Christians and maybe even some in my interactions with those who were. I did not, however, see this in my parenting. God showed me that I spent a lot of time telling my kids how important it was to read their Bibles, memorize verses, go to church, and be good Christians. We talked at length about the golden rule, being kind, loving others, caring, sharing, and being responsible. I missed something, the most important part.They did not see me live like Jesus by being patient, humble, desiring a relationship over being right, but most of all my life pointed back to a God who pursues, loves, and rescues us. I had done disfavor to them. No wonder they had walked away from the church. They had been living with a hypocrite.
Looking back I can see how "Christianity" wouldn't appeal or mean much to them. It was a list of do's and don't's not a lifestyle or posture. They didn't see a heart attitude, they saw a self- righteous attitude. They hadn't seen Jesus through me. I had completely missed the mark. I was so worried about how they (in truth myself) would be seen if they didn't make good choices and turn out right. There is a place for living a righteous life but it has to come out of a heart for God. It can't be because of what those around us will think. When it is all said and done it needs to be out of a love so big for a God so good. A God who created us in His image to have relationship with Him. Even after we rejected Him time after time He never gave up on us and instead made a way for us to be with Him by sending His one and only Son to take on our sins and die in our place.
After wrestling with all this I felt like the Lord wanted me to apologize to them. These last few months have been such a gift. God has brought down walls, bridged divisions, and brought opportunities for open, transparent, and meaningful conversations. I am so grateful that God is full of grace and forgiveness. He is the God of second chances, and I praise Him for what He is doing in the lives of my grown children. After all, they were the ones who extended grace to me when I asked them for forgiveness. We are constantly learning from our kids, aren’t we?