Monday, June 18, 2012

Parenting the Gospel

I had it wrong.
I think a lot of people do.
I think a lot of us homeschoolers think that if we just keep our children at home, teach them about creationism, center their academic education around God, take them to church services regularly, maybe enroll them in AWANA or UPWARDS sports, cram bible verses into them, and remind them that God is always watching that, hey, they'll be good, godly little children who grow up to be good, godly adults.

We throw around that verse, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."

And we really think we are training them up.

In reality, we're teaching them to walk and talk the part, but have we really reached their hearts?  Are we just pinning fruit to their limbs or are we allowing the Holy Spirit to bear fruit through them?

I had been praying that God would lead me to a good bible curriculum for the children.  I want them to learn about the Lord. I want them to be passionate about Christ.  I feel ill-equipped to prepare them for their walk with Him, though. Honestly, (and I probably shouldn't confess this, but I will) I was hoping I could find a good dvd series for them. I'm not big on television or even "school tv" but I felt like such a failure when it came to teaching my kids about God that I figured it'd be better for them to learn from some cartoon or a professional on a kid show than from me.

Boy, did Satan have me convinced.

So, anyway, I was praying that the Lord would show me which curriculum to use, and then He laid out this horribly messy curriculum before me.

It's called my life.

I'll admit, my first reaction was, "Okay, I've tried that. It doesn't work. I'm not good at that."  After all, I had done the whole bible study every morning during breakfast, singing scripture memorization, sharing biographies of missionaries, blah blah blah.  Not that any of that's bad, but....

I was trying to use my "good" works to help them see the Spirit.  Hmm, wonder why that didn't work.

I'd feel great about it when we had a good day- the kids behaving well, remembering their verses, being sweet to one another, being helpful around the house, honoring their parents, wanting to read the bible, and...

THEN we'd have a bad day. Arguing. Willful disobedience. More interested in harvesting toe jam than listening to the bible story.  And I'd feel like a failure.  And, when I was correcting my children, I felt like the Lord was nudging me in my ribs and saying, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, does it?  You do the same thing!"

And then it clicked.  That's right! I do! They're sinners, and so am I!
       [I don't think I've been that excited about being a sinner before.]

You see, we are all big sinners in need of big saving.  I'm not my children's savior.  I'm really not helping anything when I point out their faults and say something that pretty much amounts to, "Jesus doesn't like that."  [For the record, that's not what I was saying, but that's probably what my children ended up hearing.]

I was trying to nail up the law in my home and say, "Abide by this!", and when they failed to, I was flustered.


Maybe because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God?

I forgot about grace.  In my mind, grace was forgiving them, but that's not really what God had in mind.  He wants me to lead them to the cross, just as He had led me to the cross six and a half years ago. He wants me to lead my children to His grace, not my grace.

His grace leads me to say, "I know you want to obey, and I know it's hard.  I feel the same way sometimes.  I want to do good, but there's something in me that wants to rebel.  Is that how you feel? Did you know that the Apostle Paul knew what that was like?"

His grace leads me to identify with my child on that sin level. "You know, son, I struggle to do what is right sometimes. I try to behave and do good, then I fail, and I'm beating myself up.  That's why I'm so thankful for Jesus. Let me explain."

Oh what? See that there?  The gospel. These life moments are what God intended for me to use as little stages to shine His gospel grace on.

A long time ago, I heard someone say, "Don't be surprised when sinners sin.  Don't be shocked when lost people act lost."  I'm going to say something that will probably shock the socks off of some of you, but our children were born sinners.  That's right. Your kid CAN do wrong.  You don't have to keep justifying it.

If all we do is shine the light on their wrong doings, then all we've managed to do is make them feel like hopeless failures.  They will not learn about Christ.  They will see a religion of works, not one of grace and love.  When we are willing to share our shortcomings with them, and tell of God's wondrous works, they learn that it's not about what we do, but about who Christ is.  They learn that Jesus has power over sin, and when we turn to Him, His life is lived through us.

Discipling children isn't about pretending that we've got it all together and demanding they follow our perfect example. As their teachers, we need to be showing them that we are sinners who have to wholly depend on Christ, not our own goodness.

I feel like God has been prompting me to share my personal prayers with the children.  When I'm frustrated and find myself being snippy and snappy, I can stop and pray out loud.  I don't have to command the attention of my children when I do this, but it's okay for them to see and hear me cry out to the Lord for His help.  How else will they learn? They need to hear me ask for His forgiveness, seek His wisdom on situations and circumstances, praise His name for all He does, cry out when I'm sad, angry, or worried.  It need not be a big production, but I don't have to disappear to my bedroom and tell them to stay out.

Christ is my lifeline.  They will never learn that if I'm too busy trying to be religious.  I can't expect to  see them grow in godliness through the law.  If I'm only presenting them with "law", then I'm not presenting the gospel.  If all they hear is, "God doesn't like that," then they aren't hearing the Good News. I don't have to excuse their sin.  I don't have to gloss over it.  I don't have to pretend it's okay because they don't know better (because most of the time they DO know better).  That's not what this is about.  It's about leading them to Christ, because while we were still sinners, He died for us, and those who believe on Him are buried and raised with Him.  New life, not one bound by sin and death, but a life of freedom.

"It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me."

That's freedom.  Freedom from my own works.  Freedom from trying to get it right with my own effort.

That's what my children need to learn, and they will never learn that from a DVD series.  They learn it from living life beside their parents.  They learn it from seeing Momma live it out honestly before them.


amy D said...

oh, Mandy, I'm in tears. This is exactly how I want to parent, but it honesty terrifies me! I feel so inadequate to be so raw. But thank you for this. I am bookmarking it so I can come back to it easily in the future. :)

Leah aka Momma O said...

Loved this! Very real and I know so many parents can relate to this. So inspiring, thank you for sharing what God has been showing you.

bri said...

"it's not about what we do, but about who Christ is." Favorite! Thanks for the encouraging words! It is really solid truth to live by... or even to raise a family on :)

Jess said...

Mandy have you discovered Bethel's children resources?
Discovering these folks, learning about Freedom, etc has completely changed my life over the past 2 years.
I love teaching my kids all the new stuff I'm learning. The other day my 6 year old coughed and said, "I'm still sick" and without a beat, my 5 year old said, "That's because nobody prayed for you yet."
These folks give real, practical ways to model and teach these things to our kids.
Loved your post. You are amazing. I wish more parents would model just at least 1/10th of the amazing-ness you are to your kids!!!

Mandy said...

Absolutely LOVE this. Needed this so bad. Would you be up for guest blogging this blog on my blog? If not, I totally understand. I just love this.