Sunday, February 12, 2012

Give Them Grace

Am I really parenting my children as Christ has called me to? That is the question Elise Fitzpatrick and her daughter Jessica Thompson pose in the first chapter of her book, Give Them Grace. I've read books on grace before, like Tim Kimmel's book, Grace Based Parenting, which dives into the same question, As a Christian parent, how do I help my children fall in love with Jesus?  I must express that I picked up this book because I really am struggling with what my role is in parenting my children, how does the day to day squabbled and life's messiness lead them to the Cross of Jesus? Should I ask my son if he wants to accept Christ - I know he would say "yes!" but is saying yes, praying a prayer and being baptized all there is to it? I don't think so! I see far too many luk- warm Jesus proclaimers who go to church and maybe even join a church, but Jesus has no place in their Monday through Saturday lives. Jesus isn't a Sunday event, as our pastor reminds us, He is the event everyday and Sunday is the culmination of a week serving Jesus and an encouraging time to unity believers and prepare them for what is ahead.

I knew I was in for a different kind of book when I read, “God’s grace, lavished on us through Christ, ought to make our parenting radically different from what unbelievers do” (p. 21). That quote made me stop, does my parenting look radically different? It looks different, but is it radically different?  The book poses this question that hit me like a ton of bricks - if we come to Jesus, clothed in humility, aware of our filthiness and sin -- why am I trying to clean my child up and change his/her behavior, attitude and actions? Isn't that act of rule following exactly what Christ came to nullify - Christ came to nullify the law and give us the gift of grace. We are unable to ever get close to the feet of Jesus - our sins, from birth, prevents us from ever measuring up. There is nothing we can do, no rules we can follow, no "good enough," no check list I can follow,  that will ever get us close to Jesus and Father God. 

Apart from the grace of God sent through His Son Jesus Christ -  there is no hope.  There is nothing I or my children can do to be good enough, we have broken every law, committed every sin and are inoperable  and without hope. Yet, as a parent, I do believe based on past actions, that  I can shape the will of my child, I can teach them rules and make them "look" good to themselves and others (which Fitzpatrick nailed up as my own pride - ouch again!). This act is merely drawing my child away from the severity of their desperately sinful nature, instead of pointing them to the cross. The fact is, most Christian children will become so obedient and "good" that it is hard for them to fully comprehend the depravity of their sin - I for one fall into this category. I am a first born rule follower who hates to be confronted with my "big sins" but totally overlooks those minor ones that I shake off as "a personalty flaw."  This depravity of sin is what leads my own heart, and the heart of my children to repentance and eventually a full commitment to Jesus Christ through a changed life - not a perfect life. 

In section 1 Fitzpatrick penetrated my heart and  convicted me of my own need for grace. Grace - the unmerited favor of God that should dazzle and be embraced and radically change the way I live. It is through the imperfect act of my own grace that my children will embrace and be dazzled with a love for God.  There is such freedom is Christ, there is such good news, that Christ Jesus Came Into the World to Save Sinners - free of charge. GRACE.

 She also hits on the point that we're not promised "good parenting in, Christian children out." The Bible never promises such outcomes, it only asks that as parents we receive the grace of God, pray fervently for our children's salvation and then walk in faith towards a merciful and gracious God. I personally hate this part, I love control and in a very sinful and arrogant way, I do feel like I can bring my children to salvation - ouch! I can't believe I just wrote that, but the reality is most days I believe that lie. I could be the worst parent in the world and my child could still come to salvation - in  fact isn't that the way a lot of us came to Christ. Most women I meet these days didn't grow up in a Christian home. They found God on their way down and allowed Him to build them back up through their broken homes and broken lives.

Now just in case you jumped on the slippery slope, like I did, the rest of the book is dedicated on how to parent your children through the lens of grace. Fitzpatrick is not advocating not disciplining and training up your children. She is challenging the readers heart and attitude and giving tools on "how" to parent in grace. Fitzpatrick writes, “Parents are to discipline, instruct, train, and nurture their children. Only a cold detachment or a selfish disdain for children’s desperate need for direction would cause us to refuse to train them” (p. 82). She goes on to use the gospels to share with the reader how to daily apply grace into your parenting scenarios. It is through this training process that we lead our children down a path that reveals their own inability to change in their own strength but that they must trust in a merciful God who doesn't demand perfection but freely offers a free live in Christ - void of "have to's" and "do nots." Instead, as a freed believer, they comprehend Jesus sacrifice and desire to pour out  their love for God, because they truly see the sacrifice He made for them. This understanding of Jesus produces a supernatural change in attitude and behavior free of rules with their eyes fixed no pleasing Jesus, not because they are told to but because they want to. 

I'm very convicted and excited to read the next section in the book Give Them Grace, I'm excited to share with you how the Lord is speaking to my own heart. Especially as I mentally prepare for the Sally Clarkson conference next weekend! I always leave the conference refreshed and renewed -eager to apply all my fresh knowledge and biblical ideas.

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