“Lord, help me love my children as you love them.”
This is a prayer I’ve been praying since I became a mother eleven years ago.
But honestly, it wasn’t until just a few years ago that I actually began wrestling with what it would actually look like for me to really love my children as Christ has first loved them.
And what God slowly began to show me is that my ability to love my children as Jesus loves them is profoundly influenced by my own understanding and acceptance of how Jesus loves me!
Friends, if we desire to love our children as Jesus does, this is an important question worth asking: Do I believe Jesus loves me? All of me. All the time. Not just when I am obeying Him, trusting Him and pulling this parenting thing off pretty well. But when I am messing up - again, losing my patience, being unthankful, doing that “thing” I was determined to stop doing.
On days when we don’t feel the least bit lovely or lovable, do we choose to trust the Word of God or the merciless critic in our heads?
Do we look to the cross as a reminder of the lengths to which God went to demonstrate His love for us?
The cross - where God showed His unwavering love for us in this: that while we were still sinners - in our darkest hour - Christ gave His life for us. (Romans 5:8)
The cross - where we are assured that there is now absolutely nothing that falls under the “everything but that” category of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:35)
Do we trust that Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection has secured God’s eternal love for us, acceptance of us, delight in us and pleasure over us?
I’m not suggesting that our sin doesn’t break the heart of God. It absolutely does. It simply means that because of Jesus our sin does not make us less lovable to Him. And as we grasp this truth more and more, our desire to love God outweighs our desire to sin against Him. That’s what grace does.
Believing the Good News for ourselves empowers us to parent our children in the Good News! (And if you’re anything like me, you have to go back to the Good News every single day because the voice of the merciless critic is loud and it’s persistent. The merciless critic does not want us to live in the freedom that Christ has secured for us. And the merciless critic certainly doesn’t want us to parent our children in this transforming freedom! )
It’s a lot like what the flight attendant tells you to do in the event of an emergency on an airplane. “Before trying to put the oxygen mask on your child, you need to put your oxygen mask on first.” God’s grace is the oxygen mask we are talking about here. Before you can give grace and show grace to your children, you first need to accept and enjoy the grace God has freely given you in Christ Jesus.
It sounds simple, right? The problem is that surrendering to grace can feel impossible. And let me assure you, I took the long and winding road to accepting my acceptance.
On most days I acted like Jesus’ final three words on the cross were, “Make me proud,” instead of the actual three words He exhaled, “It is finished.”
But as the Holy Spirit began to give me a new identity, anchored not in what I get right and what I get wrong, but in who I am in Christ (a beloved child of God!) everything began to change.
Oh, you better believe I still have moments of doubt and defeat, but now I recognize the voice of condemnation (which is not the voice of Jesus), and I don’t cling to the guilt and shame. Instead, I repent and remember His final three words on the cross: “It is finished.” And I am set free.
Until we accept God’s wild, unrestricted love and absolute acceptance of us, we will struggle in vain to let it flow through us to our kids. (Of course, we will never be able to fully love our children as Jesus does. Only Jesus can and does love perfectly. Wholeheartedly.) But when His grace begins to transform our hearts, it also begins to transform our parenting. It’s not about what we do. It’s about what His grace does through us when we surrender to His wholehearted acceptance of us.
All is grace,