From Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel:
On page 29, Tim Kimmel writes, “…if the bottom line of parenting is grace, then that should affect how you develop goals for your children, how you handle discipline, how you process their fears, how you deal with their quirks and idiosyncrasies, and how you respond to their fads. Grace keeps you from clamping down on their spirits when they move through awkward transitions and walk through the valley of the shadow of adolescence. The reason grace makes the most sense as a bottom line for parenting is because of grace’s eternal appeal to the human heart.”
I really appreciated this thought about grace affecting all of these areas – how to develop goals for children and deal with their quirks as well as the obvious handling of discipline issues and fears. I know children need to be children, yet it is so easy for me to apply my own quirks and frustrations as the standard to which their childish behavior must meet. When Kimmel says on page 30, “It’s hard bringing out the best in children when they seem committed to bringing out the worst in us,” I felt like he was finally “hearing” me. It is hard to be grace-based with someone who will not be reasoned with and someone who is towing their own black-and-white lined version of what has happened and what the outcome should be. I need to be less concerned about being right and more concerned about shaping their hearts in the midst of the discussion, though this is tricky, because as the parent, I am responsible to also guide them in what is right. And as children, they frequently do not know or are not able to see things from a proper perspective. So the line between grace and truth can be spotty sometimes. Oh, that this would be an easier thing to understand. It would help if neither of us were such committed sinners.
On page 30, Kimmel says, “…what is it about Jesus that inclines us to cast our lot with a simple carpenter from an obscure, ancient village? It’s because of His grace – grace He has shown us by first purchasing us from the depths of our lost condition. It’s His grace that loves us when we’re being foolish, or stubborn, or selfish, or mean-spirited.”
And there it is – I’m so busy trying to make my children into perfect people that I forget how foolish, stubborn, selfish and mean-spirited I myself can be.
Also on page 30, “Grace can also help you know what matters and what doesn’t. It helps you give kids a lot of freedom to simply be ‘kids’ and keeps you from living in a reactive mode as they go through certain stages. Without grace, you can turn high standards and strong moral convictions into knives that cut deeply into the inner recesses of your children’s hearts.”
Ouch. That may very well be my chosen style of parenting – that of the reactive mode.
Kimmel quotes Ephesians 6:4 on page 36 when he writes, “’Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.’ The Greek word translated ‘exasperate’ means literally to irritate beyond measure.” I distinctly remember having Ephesians 6:1 quoted to me once upon a time and I smartly retorted with Ephesians 6:4, as if I knew better. While I probably shouldn’t have done so then (I was probably 14), I should do so at myself now. This verse really does come to mind quite a bit, though, along with the one in Proverbs about a gentle response turning away anger. They are both true and advice I need to set before me on an hourly basis.
Using a lighthouse as an analogy, Kimmel says on page 42, “God places parents as a light on a hill for their family. It is our job to send out a clear signal that helps our children get their bearings and keep their wits. We’re there to warn them away from rocks and shallow shoals. We’re there to guide them safely back into the center of the channel when they’ve wandered off. We are a lighthouse, permanently established to show them the way home. Without us keeping that steady light shining, our children don’t stand much of a chance of making it through the turbulent years of childhood without serious consequences.”
A lighthouse. This is a good way to look at this because so much of the time I see myself as a tugboat, pulling my kids along behind me, sometimes in the path I think they should go and other times in just whatever path I happen to be on.
This could be the very reason I even started this second blog anyway. I recognize a serious need for deeper dependence on the Lord in my life. I recognize how I need to model this for my children. I’ve trained myself to be so dad-gummed independent over the years that I’ve forgotten how desperately dependent I really am. I want to learn that again. I want to feel that again. I want my children to see me recognize that again. I want to come to the Lord, with my kids, and beg Him for grace for us as a family as we navigate these murky waters. I need to be a lighthouse for them, yes, but I also need to be looking for the lighthouse for myself and for all of us.