I feel so refreshed and renewed. The Lord definitely restored my vision for motherhood, strengthened me, and poured out His supernatural patience upon my parenting once again. His timing is so perfect. I really needed some time away from the children in order to clear away the fog, refocus myself, and be reminded of God's promises and truth. I was reminded that God's grace is sufficient. His grace is sufficient enough to pull me from the depths of sin and death and place me in the righteousness of Christ. I know that, but I forget that motherhood falls underneath that category as well. His grace is sufficient enough for my parenting. It is not up to me to save my children. Only the Lord has the power to transform their hearts, not me. I didn't have the power to transform my own life. It was only transformed through His mercy. I am a fool to believe that I somehow hold the keys to my own children's salvation. We are all works of grace, no matter what our upbringing. It is a miracle any of us are saved, whether we come from a religious home or not.
Sometimes I forget that grace isn't this thing that happened when I was saved and now it's all up to me. No, grace keeps on giving. I throw myself upon the mercy of God, believing His grace is sufficient, that His power is made perfect through my weakness. If that's true for me, it's true for my children as well. Parenthood is a daily picture of gospel truth- how we want to be good but we struggle to be good and sometimes we can be good on the outside but our hearts are still self-centered and self-serving. We waver between pride (when we feel like we've "been good") and despair (when we see how incapable we are). My children are such mirrors of the soul-struggle that goes on within me. No amount of sticker-charts, rewards, additional rules, check-off lists, or step-by-step parenting formula is going to transform their heart. Those things may change their outward behavior but will never show them the grace of the Father. More likely, those things will teach them that their goodness earns them something (which is contrary to the gospel). They will learn to be people-pleasers, idolizing the approval of others (even their parents), rather than relying on the grace of a merciful God who holds the power to transform us from the inside out.
Parenting is exhausting when we are focused on being the perfect parent and producing perfect kids. Christian parents may try to shove scripture down their children's throats and force them to stay awake through a church service, but that's not going to save them. No, they will come to believe if they go to church every time the doors are open and can quote scripture off the top of their heads they are "pleasing to the Lord". What we've managed to do is turn the approval of God into an idol. God isn't any more pleased by our self-righteousness and man-works than He is by our rebellion.
In the book Give Them Grace, Elyse Fitzpatrick writes, "Our keeping the rules or not keeping the rules doesn't really count for anything before God. The only thing that counts is belief that Jesus died for us and after that responding in love for God and each other." Morality doesn't save us. Morality doesn't heal us. Only God holds that power.
I don't want to teach my children that they are only pleasing to me when they are obedient. God doesn't desire outward obedience. He doesn't tell us to "get it together". He beckons us to come to Him, to rest in Christ, to cease from our own works (striving to be perfect), and to simply surrender every bit of our lives to Him. I know this is probably really confusing for those who don't understand scripture. The bible certainly can seem like a list of rules. If that's what we believe it is, we've missed the mark and overlooked the beauty of the gospel.
Grace doesn't mean that we overlook rebelliousness, it means we show our children that we too have rebellious hearts, that we too are broken and in need of a Fixer. We reveal their lostness and point them to the Savior. We don't beat them over the head with scripture ("The Lord says to obey your mother and father, so you'd better obey!"). We lead them to the foot of the cross where sin and grace collide, where man's works cease and Christ's works flow through us as a result of gratitude and surrender.
I felt like the Lord reminded me once again to let them see my weakness:
When you fail, don't hide it. Let them hear you cry out for My strength as you stand at the kitchen sink, overwhelmed by the noise and the chores left undone. Let them witness your request for patience, let them see you surrender your pride as you kneel beside them and ask for their forgiveness when you have been short with them. Tell them the testimonies I have given you- how I strengthened you when you were weak, how I poured out My supernatural patience upon you when you were at your wits end, how you asked Me to dissolve your anger and I did, replacing it with love and compassion. Share how I won your rebellious heart. Let them hear you sing praises. Let gratitude overflow from your lips and allow them to witness your thankfulness in all things. Be quick to share answered prayers, even for the smallest of things. Let them see that Mom needs grace just as much as they do, and it is readily available in immeasurable bounty to those who turn to the Savior.