Impossible Standard

Tears began to fall as I dropped my hands in a mixture of sadness and frustration and blurted, “What is it I’m not teaching him?”

My mother was in the room and smiled and gently. “Baby,” she said softly, “Don’t make this about you.”

Her tender words pierced through my self-focus and convicted my heart–a heart that so often makes parenting about me and not about my children.

The truth is I spend so many of my days expecting my children to not be sinners but at the same time expecting others to show me grace for my own sin.

In his book, Loving Obedience, William Richardson spends the first half of his book focusing on how we satisfy the love-hunger our children. Then he turns in the second half to how they learn to respond to our love with obedience and how we lovingly train them to obey. And he points to Ephesians where Paul talks about how God will reward us for every good thing we will do. He asks us what it would look like it if we live like this?

So often I focus on what my children do wrong. What if I focus on what they do right?

You cleared the table when I asked you. Thank you. Good job.

Hey look, you made your bed. It’s great! (Who cares if the covers are crooked and the pillow is upside down? They still made their bed.)

I saw you give that boy a hand and help him up off the ground when he fell even though he was mean to you. That is loving your neighbor. I’m proud of you.

You didn’t speak badly about your coach when he wouldn’t play you in the game. I really admire you for that.

When I focus instead on all they are not doing, more often that not they hear me use a tone that belittles and dimininshes their worth. What if God did that to me? What if all I heard from God was everything I’m doing wrong?

Honestly, y’all, those are the lies I hear all day long every day–baggage from a church I grew up in that wrecked my life. Baggage from a pastor that demanded perfection and expected us to measure up to some impossible standard.

What he didn’t teach us was that Jesus has already met that standard.

Then I turn and do the same to my children–expect them to meet some impossible standard. How discouraged they must feel!

Impossible standards.

There is no freedom there.

It is a few days later when I sit with my son and ask him about another incident that morning, “What were you thinking? What were you thinking when you spoke to me that way? When you disprespected me?”

He shrugs and says quietly, “I don’t know, Mom. I wasn’t thinking. I was just angry.”

And I see again…

This is my job.

To teach him how to respond and not react in situations.

But how can I teach him when I do the same thing? I get upset because they haven’t met my standard. He gets upset because he can’t meet that standard.

I reach over and place my hand on his shoulder. He looks up, and I ask him what he can do. How can he change?

He smiles because he knows exactly what I’m asking. “I can’t change, Mom. Not on my own.”

This is the gospel…

This is the GOSPEL!

For all of us.

It’s not about us and what we do! It’s about Christ and what HE did.

We talk about spending time asking God to help him. I kiss the top of his head and I leave the room looking back to see him kneel by his bed.

It is ten minutes later when I’m sorting through clothes and filling the washer that I hear footsteps behind me. An arm wraps around my waist and a quiet voice says, “I’m sorry, Mom, for treating you that way.”

And the tears in my eyes and the joy in my heart aren’t because of his apoology or his love (although admittedly that makes me very happy).

It’s because he gets the gospel!

THIS is why we train our children. Not for perfect behavior. We train them for an understanding of the gospel that will shape their lives and help them to live in freedom knowing that the impossible standard has been met.

This.

THIS…

…is what we do.

Impossible standard.

MET.

My heart sings this morning.

7 responses to “Impossible Standard”

  1. Angie, I literally had a tearful conversation with my husband as he was walking out the door about where my heart is today, which is HERE.

    Spiritual abuse is insidious, and I, too, was in a “church” that was NOT preaching the Gospel when my heart was trying to find it, so condemnation, judgment, and contempt took root and grew, instead. LIES!

    It is a daily struggle to parent my brood. To not base approval on performance. To acknowlege good enough. To extend grace in areas where I have never felt it and have to trust that it IS there because of Jesus. To not let loose with my own (feeling justified in doing so) anger when my heart feels raw and hurting.

    I wanted to encourage you and thank you for posting this, because it encouraged MY heart literally instantly. Big Monday morning hugs!

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  2. Angie, I can so relate and so can our children. We came out of the same kind of church. Christ met the standard for us and we learn His Truth and seek to live it through grace knowing we can’t do it on our own. Thank you for sharing. God will honor your mother’s heart and He sees your desire to honor Him in raising your little ones. Much love sweet friend. Ginny

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  3. So beautifully written, Angie. Thanks so much for this encouraging reminder to show our kids the gospel! I needed this!!

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  4. Yesterday in church our pastor was preaching through Jeremiah and asked the question, “What if God tasered you every time you sinned. Every bad thought, every bad deed, every time you DIDN’T do something you should have done. You would walk around on eggshells waiting for the next jolting shock.” It made me think of speaking encouragement into my children rather than constantly focusing on the negatives. Our pastor reminded us that it is God’s patience and kindness that lead us to repentance. And that patience and kindness we can model to our kids to lead them to Jesus.

    Thank you for this post. What a beautiful reminder. And clearly one God wanted me to read today 🙂

    Love how you share your heart…..

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  5. I have missed your posts! (I can’t imagine that you’re busy or anything ;).)

    I love reading your words about parenting, and I can’t help but be in awe of how blessed your children are to have you as their mother. Your honesty, willingness to admit your missteps, and the way you handle them with your children are beautiful.

    Lots of blogs about family and parenting bring up my own pain, but yours always gives me hope and reminds me that this waiting will be worth it. Thank-you for sharing, friend!

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  6. Angie, this made me cry. What a joy it is for me, who always struggles for perfection that is unattainable, to remember that Jesus paid it all, and that He is the only One who brings lasting change! Thank you.

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  7. My precious one,

    This is so precious. May God’s grace abound to you even more.

    Love and blessings,
    Judie

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