From Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel:
This chapter opens with the quote that, “All children are born with a need to love, and be loved, a need to live lives that have meaning, and a need to believe that tomorrow is worth getting up for.” I read this and immediately think, “Oh yeah? Well so do I!” And I don’t mean that in a snarky way, but it was a good realization to me that children aren’t just these little pint-sized humans who have underdeveloped brains. They are truly people, made in the image of God, and with God-given needs. On page 46, Kimmel writes, “This [secure love] is a steady and sure love that is written on the hard drive of children’s souls. It’s a complete love that they default to when their hearts are under attack. It’s the kind of love that children can confidently carry with them into the future.” This is what every child, lo, every person, needs. A steady and sure love written on the hard drives of our souls.
Easier said than done, though, right? Kimmel explains that though most parents do indeed love their children, most times the love they give is incomplete. That many times children feel they have to compete for it, or earn it. Kimmel defines love on page 52 as, “the commitment of my will to your needs and best interests, regardless of the cost.” As a flawed person myself, I’m not sure I’m always able to adequately determine what the best interests of my kids are. I’m almost always certain to be able to determine what I think my own best interests are. Okay, I may be selling myself short here. I do keep what I hope are their best interests in mind much of the time, it’s just that it is so easy for me to let myself get in the way of that too.
On page 54 he says, “…saying that we love our children and doing certain things that communicate love isn’t enough. We’ve got to love them in the way that God loves us—when they’re unappreciative, when they don’t deserve it, when it’s inconvenient, when it is costly to us, even when it’s painful…children feel secure when they know they are accepted as they are.” Wow. How can I even expand on that? I’ve been really mindful all week of my own responses to my kids’ sinful choices, due, in part, to reading this book this week. I’m here to tell you that almost without fail, whenever I resolve to do better in this area with them, they test me all the more on it. We had one particular day in which nobody could do anything right for one particular girl. She was easily annoyed, and purposefully annoying. When I tried to reason with her, she developed a surprised attitude like she couldn’t even believe there was anything she’d done to deserve a removal from the room and a conversation about it. I get so easily offended by these responses, and believe me, on this particular day, this scenario was of the wash, rinse, repeat variety.
James 1 tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” I sort of wonder if he’s teaching a parenting class here because this is what it feels like over and over and over. The thing I forget, though, is as the next verse of that passage says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given him.”
Here I am. I’m asking. Wisdom, please, a whole heaping house full.
On page 59, Kimmel finishes telling us a heart-breaking story of a mom and boy on vacation. There’s a breakfast buffet and he’s so excited to partake, but she steals his joy by telling him he can’t have it (even though she’s getting it). When the dad joins the family a few minutes later and sees his boy quietly crying, he questions her on it and the boy is allowed to go through the line. His joy returns. But when he came back with his plate loaded with all kinds of starchy, sugary goodness, the mom berates him again for his poor choices, wastefulness, bad nutrition, etc. In my retelling of it, I’m not doing a very good job of conveying the heart issues involved here, but the boy was seriously deflated. After telling the story, Kimmel says, “I’ve heard it all over the years. I’m very aware of how strict, no-nonsense parents morally justify everything they do. My questions are these: Was it worth it? Is that the way God treats us? Does God tease us with good things, insult us for being excited about them, and then scold us for trying to enjoy them?”
I made it until the first question there. Was it worth it? I cried. I’ve asked myself the same question before after a situation with one of the kids. Honestly, sometimes, yes, it was because they needed to be called on something. Other times, no, it really wasn’t. I was disciplining them for a failing to live up to a preference of mine rather than for a biblical standard. That is never worth it.
On page 65, Kimmel says, “If they’re forming a line for parents who have fallen short, and you feel that you should be in it, you’ll have to get in line behind me. We’ve all fallen short. We may not have pulled a scene like the mother at the buffet, but we’ve stolen our children’s joy unnecessarily more times than we’d like to count. We’ve turned non-issues into crises. We’ve sculpted molehills into mountains. We’ve reached inside our children’s hearts and pinched them simply because we could.” He goes on to say that what we as parents really need is to hear Him say, “It’s all right. I forgive you. I’ll help you recover from the mistakes you’ve made with your kids.”
I do want to hear that. I want to beg God for wisdom. I want to experience His forgiveness. I want to share what this feels like to my kids.