I have always been someone who likes to follow the rules. Just ask my brothers. ;) Maybe I'm even a little legalistic, hypocritical and much like the Pharisees?! In 1997, I went on a summer mission trip with Cru to Northern Africa. It was a life changing experience as we were missionaries to many who did not know about Jesus. It was humbling and exciting to adjust to the cultural differences. I learned quickly that the best way to tell these people about Jesus was to love them just where they were and live a life that reflected Him. Judging them or giving them a set of rules was NOT going to get me anywhere. It really changed my thinking for a period of time. Unfortunately, I forgot too quickly and my rule following instincts kicked in again. My heart was too judgmental of those around me not doing things as I thought they should.
Fast forward to 1999. As a newlywed, I participated in a Sonship Bible Study with our small group at church. It rocked my world. Many thanks to my small group (Hoppe's, Kirks, Philhowers, and Pitts!!) for putting up with my regular tears! One thing that stands out from my memory is the quote, "You're much worse then you think you are." I think I had begun convincing myself (even though I knew better) that somehow I had some good in me for which I deserved all the credit. But it's not true. I am an even worse sinner then I realize. Thankfully that's not all! I also learned that God's grace covers ALL my gross sin. That I am loved beyond comprehension and that there is NOTHING I can do to earn this love. It is a free gift. And, (can you believe there is more?!?) that when I believe Jesus is my Savior, the Holy Spirit begins the work of making me more like Him. I will never perfectly follow all His laws this side of heaven. However, my love for my Savior should compel me from my heart to desire to obey the laws outlined in scripture. It is by God's grace that I am able to do anything right. (I'm preaching to myself here! I need to hear this and soak it in.) This is such good news. Shouldn't it change the way I live my life?
Fast forward to 2004, 2006 and 2008. Sweet bambinos #1, 2, and 3 arrive on the scene. In record speed the years zip by and as parents we are faced with the challenges of parenting. Our parenting issues change from dealing with tossed milk cups, to dealing with much deeper heart issues (obedience, disrespect, anger, etc.). Parenting has never seemed easy, but somehow it keeps getting harder. And here is where the rubber meets the road... how do you teach someone who is so wired to be a rule follower (me) to parent in a way that is full of grace? How does a mom take the truths of the second paragraph above (God's unconditional love and GRACE!) and intersect them with the need to train children in the importance of obeying God's laws. AND, how do you teach children to want to obey these laws from their heart -- not just because mom says so or to gain her approval.
The answer is simply that I don't know. I have been more challenged then ever to really figure this out. I can't figure it out on my own, but I am praying these verses.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
"Can't you relate? Isn't parenting a thorn?! My word, it most certainly is! I know I've pleaded with God to come quickly, time and time again, and resolve matters in my own life and in the lives of my children; to remove me from this stretched place. Yet He tells me EVERY time, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weak parenting. Therefore, boast all the more gladly that you haven't figured it out and that you struggle daily to know your right from your left, the law from the Gospel, for it is there the power of God will most grandly rest. And in response to that truth we ask God for contentment through these parenting years, which do indeed include much weakness, insult and hardship. FOR WHEN WE ARE WEAK, WE ARE STRONG! Hallelujah!"
I found the quote above here. It is by Tambra Murphy. I have no idea who she is, but I like it! Stay tuned for more musings on law vs. grace in parenting. I definitely don't have the answers, but I'm muddling through in weakness praying the Lord would lead me.