As I’ve blogged about previously, we are on a new journey into grace based discipline in our house. I am learning so much about Christ from my children and about parenting my children from Christ. I am seeking to model my parenting from how my heavenly Father parents me. He is, after all, the ultimate parental figure.
In grace based parenting, your connection with your child is foremost. As a result of that connection and the relationship you build with your child, true loving obedience is born. This seemed strange to me at first, as one of the suggestions you often see is time-in’s, or loving your child during the undesirable behavior rather than sending them away to sit by themselves as punishment for their behavior. Sending them to time out can send the message that you will not love them or be connected to them if their behavior doesn’t please you.
In reflecting on this, I wonder if that’s part of why so many people are codependent. I also think that’s part of why I struggle with understanding how Christ can love me with my character defects. The manner in which I discipline, or disciple, my children teaches them about Christ and His love. I have a very sobering responsibility to ensure that I model Christ’s actual love and correction rather than a skewed version that is overly heavy on punishment or on grace.
So I asked myself how Christ corrects me when I am sinful. He convicts me and speaks to me gently but firmly, and then He waits for me to ask for forgiveness and make amends. He never breaks His fellowship with me or throws a tantrum. He doesn’t lash out at me in anger. He always has the end result in mind – when I am made perfect and whole in Him when my life here is done. He doesn’t demand that I apologize when I don’t yet fully understand why what I’ve done is wrong or try to make me feel guilt and shame in order to force me to behave. The connection is first. The relationship. I am not capable of being fully and constantly sinless for Christ. Praise God, my relationship with Christ isn’t dependent on my actions or character. He loves me and disciples me even when my character defects are rearing their ugly little heads. He is constantly reaching out to me, drawing near to me, guiding me, filling me with His Holy Spirit.
So how does this translate to my parenting? I need to be constantly drawing close to my children, guiding them, filling them with wisdom and grace. I need to remember that my relationship with my children is foremost and should not suffer because of their character defects. I need to disciple my children gently but firmly and help them to understand Godly character and the fruits of the Spirit. I don’t need to demand superficial apologies that aren’t sincere or try to control my children’s’ behaviors by making them feel guilt and shame. I need to ask the Holy Spirit to convict my children and be there to help them understand that conviction. I need not behave in anger and I must keep the end result in mind – I have been entrusted with the very important job of helping to raise up a servant of Christ.
I am constantly reminded of this in the 12-steps of Celebrate Recovery. In step 12, having had a spiritual experience as a result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs. The verse that goes with this step is Galatians 6:1, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently, but watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” My children are children of God. They are my brother and sister in Christ. If they are caught in a sin, I need to restore them gently, using caution to ensure that I am not sinning against God by abusing the responsibility that He has entrusted me. It is a sobering responsibility. One day, I will be called to account for how I raised my children. Will I have neglected that responsibility by being overly permissive and not enforcing boundaries? Will I have abused that responsibility by attempting to control and change my children into what I believe that they should be? Or will I have done the best that I could with Christ’s help to model the love of Christ and give them a healthy understanding of God’s love, grace and conviction?