Why Displaying the Gospel Helps Kids Better Understand Grace
My job description is complicated as a wife, mom, writer, and therapist. It’s a tricky business striving to multi-task career deadlines while writing Christ on the hearts of three kids under 11. Maneuvering the weekly carpool. Editing another chapter. Wiping another tear. For many years I found myself overwhelmed with the unyielding stress of creating godly character in my kids. Have you ever felt burdened to create something good in someone else? The pressure to produce godliness fought mercilessly with my failure to be holy until God released me one day through an unexpected twist of events.
After advising two of my kids to quit arguing, my son peered boldly into my eyes and responded with an unyielding NO! Several times. My blood boiled at his defiance, and my heart wept with disappointment. Within the span of five minutes I was beyond exasperated and had bellowed several unreasonable consequences. I had lost my grace, my witness, and my better judgment. Later, I became aware of my need to apologize and prayed for wisdom, yet inside I still ached at my son’s repeated, smug defiance. God blessed my plea with an idea.
At bedtime, my son waited cavalierly in his room, assuming that I would not follow through on all that I had bellowed earlier. Dumb struck upon hearing that he would receive all named consequences, blood rushed from his face. A minute passed in silence, and my maternal compassion welled. At that moment, my husband stepped into the room and interjected,
“Stop! Don’t punish him… I will take his consequences for him.” The room paused, my son’s face expressing simultaneous horror and elation.
Later that night, after thinking that his father endured all named consequences on his behalf, my son sheepishly asked, “Is daddy hurt?”
“Yes.”’ I stated gently.
“A lot?” he pressed.
He paused and pulled his eyes up from the ground to meet mine. “Is he dead?”
“Oh my goodness, no!” I chuckled.
Daddy now in sight, my son ran toward him, embracing him forcefully around the hips.
“Thank you daddy, I’m so sorry daddy,” he stammered between sobs, “Will you forgive me?”
His father had absorbed his punishment, satisfied spoken consequences, and modelled mercy. A few weeks later, a moment of spiritual beauty rose beyond my best calculated plans. One evening, my daughter was expecting to receive some of her own consequences, when into her room stepped my son, nervously.
“I want to take the consequences for her,” he blurted.
My breath left. “Pardon?” I whispered.
Sheepishly, he tried again, “I want to take the consequences for her so that she doesn’t have to endure this.”
“Why would you want to do that?” I stammered as tears welled up in my eyes.
“Because Jesus took the consequences for my sin… and…well…I would like to do that for her.”
Stunned, I gulped the ache in my throat back down. And true to his word, my little boy absorbed all of her consequences without a single complaint or expectation from his sister for applause. His act of sacrificial love was compelled by the touch of grace he had received in his own life - mercy that could not be constrained and had to be paid forward. m that it wasn'iquely her own, not one of shock andGod took an otherwise helpless situation of a mom who’d failed and transformed it into a profound manifestation of how the gospel can flush out intimately within the walls of an ordinary home.
Titus 3 talks about how our good works do not save us, but that the mercy of God saved us.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)
When we’ve fallen flat on our faces in ‘mom failure’ again, the gospel catches us as we fall and has the power resurrect even the deepest failures for His glory.
A mom who brings her constant mess-ups to Jesus teaches her children that they qualify for grace. This grace brings freedom to our parenting because while we strive to serve Jesus with excellence, we know that salvation is not granted by our good behaviour or best parenting. Our identity as mothers must be fixed securely on the person and work of Jesus. The goodness in ourselves or others is not something to be earned but something that was given, a finished work of Jesus that we can rest in. Our role is not to do things for Christ to earn some kind of Jesus merit badge, but to belong to Him – to displayHis glory no matter what roles we occupy, big or small, successfully or in weakness.
As we cling to Him, He will work through us to accomplish His purposes for our good and His glory. The pressure will fall from our shoulders because it’s God who transforms character, not us, and He even redeems our worst flops. We need those we influence to see that we are not perfect because a life without struggle is one that doesn’t need Jesus to speak truth into discouragement and redeem lives riddled with sin. So let’s model to one another how to run to Jesus in times of joy and error, and then watch how God births new life into broken hearts around us.
Andrea Thom is a wife, mom to three great kids, a writer, and therapist. She is passionate to see people grow in biblical literacy and have their lives transformed by the gospel. She writes and speaks on passages of scripture as well as practical life topics that discuss how biblical wisdom intersects with her clinical expertise as a therapist. Read more of her writing and connect with her at AndreaThom.com.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Edward Cisneros