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!
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.
…is what we do.
My heart sings this morning.
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