Saturday, January 14, 2012

Grace. With a Capital G.

       The New Year has arrived and I have been trying to pinpoint the theme of my life right now. For one, it is that little girl in the picture. She has changed us all for the better and I am thankful beyond words for her. Being a Mommy to a baby was a huge shift for me. Going back to strollers and diaper bags was a shock! What a blessing she is. What a gift. I often just look at her and think, "How on EARTH did I get you??!" Really, she shouts God's Love to me daily and for that I am so grateful...

 But what have I been learning?  What is shaping me and changing me? The main thing is Grace. I never really understood it. But that doesn't mean it wasn't at work in my life. I just never gave it much thought. But it is changing how I live now that I am thinking about it. It is changing how I treat others. It it transforming my marriage, and helping me parent our children. Giving grace sort of freaked me out because I thought it was like giving others (and myself) a free ticket to mess up. I was so wrong. Giving grace is loving the way God loves, forgiving the way He forgives. It has been so helpful in parenting and has given me a lot more peace. It is an exercises in faith, and that is often times harder than all the parenting techniques under the sun. It's telling My children to run straight to their Savior when they fail. He is there everytime....

(taken by Beau 4/08)

       With most situations in my kid's lives I've learned I either need to train them, nurture them or just remind them of God's promises. Sometimes they need clear instruction in order to help their lives run smoother. Other times they need some talking to about behavior or some discipline for their actions. To be reminded of why they need a Savior so very much because they cannot behave on their own strength. Many times they are just bummed out and need to have their hearts nurtured. It's a cruel world out there, and at times they simply need a kind ear and a big hug. Those are the times I need to remind them of the many promises of God. The tricky part is knowing what is needed most at any given moment! And I know that all the faithful parenting in the world is no sure fire way to produce well behaved, God fearing children. It's only the Grace of God that does that. Imagine if it was all my doing that could make or break them. No thanks...

      At times, rules seem much safer and grace feels sort of dangerous, but after a while we start to feel trapped by our inability to follow all of the rules perfectly. Then we feel like failures when we realize rules (or the law) isn't enough to save us. For's a scary feeling letting go. I want a safety net and I love trying to weave a great big one around my kids. But there is nothing I can do beyond what God has already done. I had always viewed my relationship with God kind of like a "work contract." and not one of a Loving Father and a beloved child. How tiring is that? I now work hard because I love Him, I work hard because I want to bless my family, but I do not work hard because I think I can earn anything. I am nothing without Him and I know it. (Ok, sometimes I catch myself trying to prove myself still, but I readjust. It's a process.)

      When people tell me my kids are so wonderful, I just thank God. I know better than to think I should take the credit. Being self-reliant never got me anywhere. Except pretty tuckered-out. And you know what? It's so freeing releasing myself from the burden of being solely responsible for my child's lifelong happiness and success. It's just too heavy for me. TIMES FIVE! Now, I know I have a part, and I do try to daily do my best. But my best isn't good enough all the time, so it's then I need God's strength, wisdom, and peace.

      And what about those who are struggling with children who are rebelling and making poor choices in life? I have many friends who are trying so hard and doing all the right things and feel so discouraged by their children's choices. Remind them God works in even these hard situations. Remind them that in our brokenness and in our weakness we experience the comfort of His strength. Tell them that loving your children in spite of their wrongdoings is an exact picture of God's love to us, his sinful, rebellious children. God loves His enemies and lays His life down for them. Loving wayward children teaches us the gospel. We get to love like He loved. So tell them to hang on tight to the message of forgiveness and that weakness is always where sustaining faith is produced. No matter how hopeless it looks, cling to Him! This is a journey. A marathon. Each step is effort, but filled with joy as I find myself more and more dependent on Him. It's odd, Paul seemed to be thrilled and even brag about his weakness, but we usually try like crazy to hide the fact we are weak. Just be weak...wimp out and let your Father carry you. Admit it, you are beat.

I want to Mother My children well. I want them to grow up and know that they know that they know, that I love them. But more than that, I want them to know God loves them. No matter what. I want them to know that Grace isn't something they work for or earn from God. God looks at us, wretched as we are, and instead of punishing us, he loves us and blesses us. I am patient because I need patience. I love them all the more because I have been so abundantly loved. I am quick to forgive because I have been forgiven. Grace magnifies mercy! I love that we are humbly growing in grace with our children. It's okay if we don't fully understand the breadth of it. It still works! I am glad that I don't have to give my kids the exact right words they need to hear so they understand the gospel. They may need to hear that I am also learning and relying on the Holy Spirit right along with them. I can't change their hearts for the better, I can't even change mine. So I wait, and pray, and manage and nurture, while God perfects His work in their lives. Being transparent and open with our children allows them to see we are on this journey with them. We do not have to pretend to have all the answers of have it all figured out. I have messed up so much lately and at times I want to just sit down and cry my head off. I look at our kids and think, "Wow, I have really messed them up."  I feel tempted to just put on the happy face and make up excuses for my behavior to my kids.( So maybe I won't make God look bad.) But God can handle His own reputation, He doesn't need me. So I find myself more and more looking at those little faces I love so much and saying,

 "I am just really messing up here and I need God's help. I am sorry I have hurt you with my actions, and I am just going to keep at it and ask for God's help because it is all I can do."

I love these verses. We will never love or parent perfectly. When we need of big time help, and we are just plain tired out and feeling like we can't take another step in the right direction, God will give us His promised Grace. And with that Grace, comes Peace.

1 Peter 5:5-11

English Standard Version (ESV)
5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen

Humility is an open door to grace. When I realize that there is nothing I can really do to renew or change my kids hearts it humbles me. There are days I feel like a total failure. I think I need those days in order to realize how much I need God. We aren't perfect examples because there is only One perfect example. And He takes our failures and uses them for His glory. I look back, and am amazed at the terrible mess I made of things. Seriously, I have been a complete fool and made such bad choices. I took things into my own hands and made everything so much worse. But He opened my hands, took my failures, and dropped them at the cross. Done.

My Father looks at me, and sees His perfect Son. If that ain't Good News, I don't know what is...

 Only He can turn ugly, sinful, messes into a thing of great beauty.

Think of the Cross....
It was the worst thing to happen in the history of mankind.
It makes me shudder when I think of it...
Killing God...
And what came of it?

1 comment:

  1. Been learning a lot about Grace myself recently. I'd be sunk without it.