Just this week the Lord showed me in an intimate way how He loves me in the middle of my disobedience. It was a week where it seemed my kids had lost their minds, forgetting every rule we have ever had in our home, and finding new creative ways to act out (sneaking out of bed and playing at 10pm in the living room, playing a stellar game of hide and seek at 6:30AM, only forgetting to clue us in on the game. I could go on, and this is just the youngest).
I found myself taking it so personally, as a direct indicator of my effectiveness as a parent, and a direct assault against my authority. In essence, their disobedience was about me.
In the Lord’s graciousness, He spoke gently to my heart and reminded me that my job is not to procure or enforce their obedience, but to love them through relationship while speaking truth and teaching them His ways. He is the only One that can change a heart. I cannot control their obedience out of them. (Ugh, even as a type that, it sounds so yuck. But that is what sin is, totally missing the mark.)
And I want to take a minute to call out some of the other lies in the statement above. One being that others’ choices are not an indicator of anything about me (my identity and worth/abilities/etc are in Christ). My kids’ disobedience is an indicator of their fallen, sin nature. They are little sinners. Cute, but sinners. It doesn’t mean that I am a total failure as a parent because my kids choose poorly, most of the time. And it doesn’t mean you are either, if you find yourself in a similar situation. It is just a really great reminder, if we allow ourselves to view it this way, of our need and their need of a Savior.
And lie number two, parenting is not about my authority, but about stewarding a God-given authority that is ultimately about pointing my kids to His authority in their lives. The goal is to not raise them up in my image or whatever image I perceive their need to resemble, but to raise them up in the Lord, to look and live like Jesus. And when I put these explicit terms, it becomes apparent really quickly that that is not a task that I can achieve on my own. Once again, the Holy Spirit has got to do that one, too. (I’m picking up a theme…)
And then, as He usually does, the Lord took it a step further and reminded me that He has embraced me and loved me in the midst of my worst rebellions and when I wasn’t the least bit interested in His glory, but solely focused on my own. He loved me through it. He did not leave me. He didn’t shame me. He even sent His Son to ensure there wouldn’t be a relational break between us. (He does not withdraw when I get it wrong! He doesn’t leave when things get hard. He holds on all the more because He knows that what I need most is Him.)
“It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.” Ephesians 2:1-6 MSG
I love that version of this passage, especially the part “with no help from us!” I can trust Him with my kids. I can trust that as I do my best – not perfection, but my broken best – at obedience, He will do what only He can do. And I can rest in that, and find myself with ample opportunities to have the privilege of just loving my kids through this life, relieved of the pressure of needing to save and ensure their obedience. It’s not my place, and definitely not something I can do, not even for myself. I will let Him be God in their lives, and I will let Him by God in mine, by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
What areas, if you were completely honest, do you find yourself trying to control that God has never meant for you take ownership of? It’s subtle, this lie of control, this taking on responsibility that was never given to us to steward, and that tricks us into missing what we have been called to do – surrender, trust, extend grace and forgiveness, take responsibility for our own actions.
Will you join me in confessing any areas the Holy Spirit reveals to you, and choosing to rest in the finished work of the cross of Jesus and the amazing implications that means for our lives? I know that this tired mama can sure use some rest, real rest.