ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FEBRUARY 2014
So, it might be obvious at this point, but my house is full of boys. I imagine this will only increase as time goes on and my minivan has fewer carseats and more of the boys’ friends squished in there. This raising boys thing is a delightful burden, weighty but made light because I know I can’t compel their hearts towards Jesus.
As a mother, I feel like I have two separate roles with my boys.
1. I need to raise them to be independent adults. They need to be able to do things like their laundry, understand basic finances, have a strong work ethic, and obey authority. These skills are vital to life outside of your Mother and Father’s care, shelter, and provision. These are the things that look like behavior training. They will (hopefully, crossing my fingers) lead to the ability to stand on their own.
2. I need to shepherd them to Jesus. I need to constantly preach the Good News to them. I need to make sure that they know that they don’t have to sit in their own ick (their sin), because Jesus has already paid that price. Over and over and over again I need to point to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can change their hearts when they are hard. The Holy Spirit has that responsibility and privilege.
I see danger when I see these two roles getting mixed up. I see that our flesh wants our children to LOOK like Christ, and we push them to modify their behavior, even when they have no concept of the Good News or how the Holy Spirit refines them. If I push them towards good behavior, they will end up doing it for me, for a reward, or because their bent is towards legalism anyway.
There are times when behavior modification is good and well in parenting. I want my kids to stay out of the street, to know how to sit quietly (because sometimes we need to do that), to eat the food I’ve given them.
But, I never want my kids to obey and think they are GOOD. I don’t want them to cross off the checklist and think they are in right standing with the Lord. I want them to know that while they were still sitting in their ick, Jesus loved them and wanted good for them. He died so that they may have life. And, when they believe in Jesus and they follow Him–God sees them as righteous and good because He sees His Son. Just as I have no power to compel their hearts, they have no power to do enough good, to obey enough, or to make nice enough. But, they don’t have to…and that’s such good news.
I find such freedom in parenting by this simple truth. And, well, I’m all about freedom because Jesus is, too.