Contrast 5 of 5 _ parenting from grace vs. parenting for moralism _ hurry, haphazardness, & hands-off OR patience, priorities, and pursuit.

Parenting takes time. A fast correction at times is enough, but often a focused conversation is necessary. In a moment of frustration, a parent can react with an angry rebuke, but walking down a path toward restoration with a child takes much longer. Parenting doesn’t give much space for hurry.

Parenting is strategic. Inconsistency is guaranteed to produce exasperation both for the parent and the child, but intentional, creative, redundant emphases over time blossom into wise choices and relational joy, both for the parent and the child. Haphazardness is not characteristic of effective parenting.

Parenting requires presence. Quality time doesn’t happen without quantity time. Occaisional gifts don’t make up for frequent absence. Respect grows as connection is valued. A hands-off approach is no way to parent.

And thus the final contrast. A prayer of sorts.

Lord, help us to be parents who hurry less, avoid haphazardness, and settle for hands-off declarations and pithy lectures. Please make us to become parents who patiently walk alongside our children, who cultivate into our kids’ lives with priorities surrendered to You, and who pursue wandering children the way You have pursued us.

PATIENCE
Yesterday morning, Jen took the older four to see the play version of the classic “Frog and Toad” stories. They adored it. My favorite tale from that collection is the one in which Toad desires a garden just like Frog’s. He plants and them is impatient. Frog tried to encourage Toad that screaming at the plants to grow isn’t probably gonna be effective. Patience and watering and more patience and even some circumstances beyond the gardener’s control and some more patience are required.

One wise dad once told me that “steady plodding brings the truest wealth,” patient cultivation brings the greatest harvest. It is true in our parenting for sure.

What helps me most to be patient with others is simply my own remembering of how much patience I require others to have with me.

PRIORITIES
When I coached high school basketball, Coach Rick Majerus, whom I am quite sure is disappointed with the closing of Hostess, declared to the coaches at his coaching clinic this very wise leadership principle:

“It is not what you teach but what you emphasize.”

Dick Bennett, who coached the Wisconsin Badgers to the 2000 Final Four, told our coaching staff to settle on four or five things that we creatively, redundantly practiced every practice, and he guaranteed not an undefeated season but rather that we would find ourselves AT LEAST in position to possibly win every game. We applied this with much success.

With the same thinking in mind, Jen and I settled on six actions that we would try to live ourselves (with the Spirit’s help) and cultivate into and encourage from our kids. We are in no way suggesting that we are great parents who have arrived at some gold nuggets of wisdom guaranteeing wonderful kids. Rather, we prayed and paid attention to the teachings of Jesus and sought counsel from some other parents and arrived at these six:

:: be believing
…that God loves us and is good and showed us His love most clearly when He sent His Son to be with us to live and die and live again that we might live with Him. The question to ask may not be, “What do you think of God,” but rather, “What does God think of you?”

:: be confessing
…when we realize or have been confronted with our selfishness or our wrongful attitude and actions toward God and others.

:: be grateful
…for the God who came near and all that He allows to come into our hands and into our lives, trusting Him to hold us both through our own mistakes as well as our collisions with the mistakes of others.

:: listen
…every step to God and every situation to others.

:: learn
…from Jesus as we walk with Him and with others as we learn and live Christ’s ways together.

:: love
…the God who loved us first as well as neighbors and nations the way Jesus loved us.

PURSUIT
In Psalm 139, David sang this prayer:

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.
(Psalm 139:23, 24 HCSB)

David’s profound gratefulness and contrite heart and surrendered life comes through in these words like no other. It is a sober and beautiful expression of worship toward the God who forgave and restored this great King.

A lot of people’s view of God is not one of a Divine Being who pursues them. For many of them, this is because their own father and mothers never pursued relationship with them in this way.

Dennis and Barbara Rainey applied these two verses to our parenting in a significant way. It is a powerful challenge to all of us as parents to pursue our kids.

When you pursue this kind of heart-to-heart relationship with your children, you’re actually following God’s example. Wouldn’t it be wonderful (someday) if your kids could say of you, “My parents have ‘searched me and known me.’ They know not just ‘when I sit down and when I rise up,’ but they also ‘understand my thought’ and are ‘intimately acquainted’ with who I am and what I’m like”?

I pray all of our kids will say that about all of us as parents, reflecting on the ebb and flow and ups and downs of a beautiful adventure with their moms and dads.

May we parent with patience and priorities and pursuit. Intentionally. Over the long haul. With grace. For the sake of God’s goodness rather than their own.

Contrast 3 of 5 regarding parenting from grace vs. parenting for moralism _ parental apology or parental pride???

One dad told me he would never apologize to his kids. My heart sank. Our kids so often do what they have seen their parents do. What would the likelihood be of his kids recognizing that God desires a contrite heart more than a polished exterior?

Are we as parents willing to model confession? Are we willing to show our kids the value of a contrite heart?

King David coveted, committed adultery, lied, manipulated, murdered, and covered it up. We know people like him as shameful, disgraced, untrustworthy, controlling, imprisoned, and treacherous. The Bible declares him to be a man after God’s heart.

Come again?

Let me say up front that grace based parenting is not an excusing approach to parenting. It is not a do-whatever-you-want-and-I’ll-always-overlook-it form of parenting. My wife and I, as we are praying for wisdom and learning the pragmatism of this approach, we still pronounce consequences and rebuke and interject and redirect. The people whom we have either read about or seen practicing grace based parenting do, as well. The difference is that we don’t do this expecting perfection. We do it hoping for confession.

It would be irresponsible for a shepherd to just let a sheep continue wandering toward the cliff or over by a wolf’s den. The good shepherd doesn’t do this. Rather, he wants the wandering sheep to be close to him. So, when the wandering sheep wanders, the shepherd goes to her to guide her closer. If she wanders again, he nudges her back. In the discernment of the shepherd, and it is different for each sheep, there may come a time when her legs need to be broken. If the shepherd does this, he then carried the sheep on his shoulders for the duration of her healing. The sheep learns walking again as she stumbles along near the shepherd, learning to listen to his voice rather than her own or the voice of any other besides the Shepherd. It is no guarantee that the sheep won’t wander again, but it is a demonstration of the guaranteed love of a near Shepherd.

So Jesus said again, “I assure you: I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. [This happens] because he is a hired man and doesn’t care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep.”
(John 10:7-15 HCSB)

We have a shepherd who deals with us in this gracious way. We need Him, especially as parents. He will not model for us a way of loving others that will lead to destruction. And He gives us the chance to learn how deep the Father’s love for us, how willing to lay down His life the Shepherd is, by giving us the chance to be a good shepherd to our own kids.

Who is the burden on? The one whose legs are broken when they wander or the one who carried the wanderer? It is the former, for he carried the weight both of an aching heart of love for the sheep as well as the weight of the sheep herself.

And this is the difficulty they call parenting.

Are we practicing parental apology or parental pride? Let me ask it another way. Are we letting our kids see the near grace and forgiveness and love of a Shepherd willing to carry even their mom and dad in the midst of their struggles to parent, or are we pretending that we know it all and they should, too?

Confessing to our kids when we have been wrong in our dealings with them is simply a way to show them our once-broken legs, to share with them the story of the Shepherd whom we need desperately and who desires us close and who carried us, too.

Just like He wants to carry them. Just like He wants our kids to know His voice.

Will we apply the same principles to mom and dad that we do to our kids? Will we parent from the gracious relationship we have with the Shepherd, or will we wander out alone.

Parenting is too hard to go alone.

May we be willing to confess to our kids when we have wronged them. May they see in us more than polished behavior. May they witness the beauty of a contrite heart as we confess our wrong and admit our desperate need. May they be reminded of the Gospel of Jesus in the very ways that they see us navigate our sinfulness.

He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 HCSB)

So if parenting involves seasons when we pursue our kids and even carry them, how can we do this for the long haul? Let’s look at this tomorrow…

Contrast 2 of 5 on parenting from grace vs. parenting for moralism _ “I can’t believe you did that” or “I know why you did that.”

I have said it, too. Caleb makes a mistake. I spout off, “I can’t believe you did that!” Or maybe an alternate derivative – “Why did you do that?”

Don’t we know? Maybe we don’t.

I was in a training seminar this week when, as an example of how even from an early age we look for someone else to blame, the teacher showed a video of a little three year old girl blaming her 8 month old sister of drawing high up on a chair (when the little one couldn’t even stand). It is in us. Selfishness. And when confronted, the selfish act of deflecting the issue onto someone else. It is our tendency. We make a selfish choice. We want to cover it up and hide.

The Garden story is the story of all of us.

So, why do we parent as though it isn’t?

Do we grow out of this? Can we self-actualize our way out of our selfish tendencies, our relationally destructive choices? Tell Jesus that is possible. His nail-scars declare otherwise.

Stay with me. I am guilty of this just like any other parent. Having brain lapses as though my kids shouldn’t make mistakes. You may have never thought of it, but if you parent with this “why did you do that” emphasis, you will sow the seeds either of self-sufficiency or self-destruction. Either that child will reap an air of “I am okay and don’t need anyone else,” or she will reap the stinch of shame and isolation wondering why she can’t ever get it right.

Do either of these welcome the Gospel?

No wonder God had to fit into skin to do something about it. We would have ignored him altogether or just hidden in shame. John, in chapter one of his Gospel, actually wrote that this is what we did.

So, if that was not the way to welcome Jesus, then why would we parent with the mindset and habits that cultivate for that level of self-absorption?

We as parents must beg Jesus to transform our default statement from “I can’t believe you did that” to “I know why you did that.” Furthermore, we know the One who did something about why we do that.

Are we parenting our kids to be perfect or are we parenting them with a perfect love?

Paul declared in Romans 2 that kindness leads to repentance. Repentance is turning from the path I am on to walk a different path. We need to repent as parents of our default mindset, and then parent in environments that encourage repentance, simply because our kids will always need to practice repentance and confession all of their lives. Just like we as parents do. And that environment that encourages repentance is one of perfect love.

Perfect love is not perfect parenting. Rather, it is parenting with a default of grace and forgiveness and multiple chances and ongoing training and expectation of mistakes made rather than perfect behavior. AND, we are in no way capable of this perfect love unless as parents we ourselves are living dependent upon the One who loves us perfectly.

Speaking of living dependently, may I offer a word of caution?

We must be careful of buying into the lie of American culture called “self-esteem.”

Are we parenting our kids toward self-esteem or God-esteem?

Hopefully the latter. Because anything prefixed with the word “self” seems to me to be referring to something that was nailed and buried. I don’t need to believe in myself. I need to believe in the One who believes in me. I don’t need to accept Him as much as I need to accept the truth that He has accepted me. Jesus, the Gospel incarnate, declares it!

WE ARE WORTH DYING FOR TO GOD.

As parents, may we remember that being worth dying for to God implies the need for sacrifice. For sin to be covered. For selfishness to be remedied.

We know why we make selfish choices. And we know why our kids do, too. Let’s not direct them toward expected perfection. Let’s introduce them to the One who loved perfectly, in the midst of our imperfections.

My brother pulled me aside when I was in high school during a time when I was especially down because of personal sin and selfishness. He reminded me that sorrow for that sin was healthy. But moping was not. And he challenged me that expecting to make myself unselfish was not healthy either. Rather, I should smile instead of feeling shame. I should smile, because my selfish insufficiencies were glaring evidence of my desperation for the All-Sufficient One. I should smile, a smile of confession, that I need Jesus.

And He met me in my need.

May we go with Him to meet our kids there, too.

———-

So we considered when our kids make mistakes today. But what about all the mistakes we are gonna make as parents? Let’s look at that tomorrow…

An encouraging AND challenging word for anyone out there feeling hopeless in your marriage…

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Infidelity and distrust can crush a marriage. However, confession and forgiveness are more powerful than you may have ever imagined.

Over these 8 and 1/2 years of Westpoint Church, we have counseled with and walked with a number of couples struggling through the difficult, beautiful ebb and flow of a marital relationship. Some have not turned out as we hoped. The restoration of others have blown us away.

One couple in particular still moves me to tears almost every time I think of their story. Suffice it to say that one spouse thought everything was average to good with their marriage, until the day a confession was made.

For some reason, and they have told me as such, a groveling confession made it more possible for restoration, whereas getting caught might have been the doom of their marriage.

They connected with the Westpoint family and admitted that the teaching of grace and the emphasis on daily making disciples grabbed their attention. The message of God’s near love and His intent for us to live on mission together both encouraged and challenged them toward a refreshed relationship with Jesus. Both husband and wife were learning and growing. And as the Jesus tends to do, He graciously met them at their “sicknesses” and began to heal (Matthew 9).

Little did they know the rocky journey of discovery and healing that would come.

“I have to confess. I know it is a necessary step as well as a possible death blow. But there is no way we can be who Jesus intended without it.”

And the confession came. And so did weeks of denial and anger and profound grief and the very, tiny beginnings of forgiveness and restoration.

The Gospel. Mysterious. A “good news” that Jesus did not wait for us to say we were sorry to take initiative to forgive and love and restore. A “good news” that Jesus was good enough, because we won’t ever be. A “good news” that we are worth dying for. A “good news” that calls us to believe we are loved and compels us to love as we have been loved. Even when our parent abandons us. Even when our sibling takes advantage of us. Even when our neighbor lies to us. Even when our co-worker takes advantage of us. Even when our child forsakes our care. Even when our spouse cheats on us.

Really? Seriously? Yes. It is possible.

“Believe me,” they might say, “we know that not everyone would be willing to endure the pain and anger and bewilderment and difficulty we have endured for the length we have endured it to walk through confession and forgiveness and restoration and healing.”

But can I tell you what they say they have learned. Experienced. Witnessed in each other. Seen renewed like never before. Known intimacy they thought impossible.

It doesn’t always work out this way.

I have pastorally counseled with couples whose story is very different. It involved unfaithfulness, but it ended with ravaging divorce that added to the already instigated devastation. And if you are in that boat, don’t take this story as discouraging with a “why not me?” Rather, take it as encouraging with a “grateful He can.”

Cause this couple would be the first to tell you they are no better or more able than anyone else. They just both resolved to surrender to the One who makes all things new. And He did something in them, over time, still working and healing now even, for which they are eternally grateful.

Unfortunately, in most cases, both husband and wife are not resolved and surrendered. It is usually only one, and that one usually takes the brunt of it.

Even that is included in the Gospel. The “good news” of the One who knew no sin but became sin on our our behalf” (2nd Corinthians 5:21). Who took the brunt of it.

So take heart. Grace is near. Forgiveness is possible.

May we live confessionally and contritely and graciously with one another.

And Lord Jesus, please help us in all of our relationships to be surrendered and resolved to follow You, no matter what we have to endure. Because love can. It never fails. Your love, that is.

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:34, 35 HCSB)