Series Intro: Last year, my husband and I participated in a theological training course through our church called Porterbrook. As part of the course requirements, I gave a presentation in response to one of the modules. The module contended that all of life is to be lived to the glory of God, and I reflected on that as it pertains to parenting. Recently I’ve been thinking about these principles and thought it might be helpful for my own heart to revisit them. Maybe they can encourage you, too. I’ve broken them into a few parts to appear over the next few weeks.
Part 3: Restorative Grace
Now, as any parents who have been reading so far are surely aware, these are all nice ideas in theory. But what about when the rubber really meets the road? This is what my assignment actually was–to answer the question, what does it look like to glorify God in the face of an obstinate child flexing her self-will?
You may be familiar with the scenario. What starts out as a quick trip to Target evolves into an all-out war in the checkout line. Your child screams and cries while the cashier tries to make small talk and pretends not to notice. Your face is red; your blood pressure raised. How can God be glorified in this moment?
In 1 Timothy chapter 1, Paul writes to Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”
I think the answer lies in these words. I could look at my child with indignation. How could you behave this way?! I could be embarrassed. I could crush them with my words or simply my look of complete disapproval and anger. Or, I could realize this: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. I could look at my child and think, What a picture of me! How often do I throw my own fits in the face of God? Yet how much patience and mercy has He extended to me, over and over again? With the perspective of the cross before me, knowing that what He has done in my own heart is only a work of His grace in me, what I want for my child is not just that they would comply to my authority, but that they would experience the grace that I am experiencing – the very grace that compels me to move towards them in that moment. I can come beside my child and say, “I get it. I know why you’re behaving this way, because I’m just like you. But there’s hope for us! Let’s run to Jesus together.”
Certainly there is a place for rule and discipline. But with this perspective, discipline isn’t punitive. Instead of approaching our children like we’re going to make them pay, we are embarking on a gracious rescue mission, seeking to restore them and point their hearts and ours to Christ, who has paid the penalty in full for their sin and ours.
(These concepts are adapted from this roundtable discussion.)