This has been the resounding call of God to me lately, that I foster an atmosphere of grace in my home. I wish I could say that this was easy, but then if it were, God would not have to remind me daily if not hourly to give grace. I often am too quick to get angry. Too quick to raise my voice or administer correction. If God were to deal with me in the same way I treat my children . . . well, I am pretty sure the ground would have swallowed me up already or maybe some well placed lightning. You get the idea.
As I was putting my children down for a nap today singing "He's still working on me, to make me what I ought to be. It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars, the sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient He must be. He's still working on me," I was overwhelmed with God's grace and patience in my life. He spoke the earth, sun and stars into perfect existence. Yet, because of His overwhelming love for us He created us with a journey towards perfection or destruction. He could easily demand holiness. How much more quickly would I choose holiness if I knew I were to be swallowed up by the earth if I made the wrong choice? Yet He grants grace. Day after day, minute after minute, second after undeserved second.
Oh but how often do I expect perfection from my children? My heart breaks over how often I have failed to affirm the 20 things they have done fabulously, but rarely miss a transgression.
I have been reading in Galatians and have too closely resonated with the objects of Paul's wrath. I am so often just as legalistic, proud, and ungrace-filled as the Galatians. I often steer pretty clear of The Message, but I am oh so glad the Lord directed me there for a fresh look at this book.
"When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit." Galatians 5:4b-5 (The Message)
How often do I lack grace with myself, resulting in utter frustration and self defeat over my loss of battles with my flesh. Beth Moore in Breaking Free succinctly nails down the problem with this: "No amount of determination will bring freedom. We're going to learn to be victorious by surrendering our lives completely to the spirit of God, not by gritting our teeth and trying harder" (pg 6). After most of a lifetime of being saved, I am still trying to grasp the concept of surrender. How grateful am I for His grace?
I want my children to understand grace. To understand surrender. To understand a Spirit filled, Spirit led life.
Yet, how can they grow in understanding of these things, when I am not modeling it for them?
"What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others--ignoring God!-- harvests a crop of weeds. All he'll have to show for his life is weeds! But he one who plants in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith." Galatians 6:7b-10
What am I planting? Criticism? Judgment? Anger? I want to overflow with love, grace, mercy, and understanding. Those closest to me? My husband and children. I am to start with these. Parenting littles is hard. Homeschooling is hard. I don't get a break from them, they don't get a break from me. All of our faults are glaringly obvious to each other. I often find it good perspective to reflect on why we homeschool. A few for us: To provide a solid Biblical foundation. To develop godly character. To provide a safe place to learn and grow. How often do I get in the way of completing these goals? How many times at the end of the day does my husband come home and I have nothing left to give? I love the analogy of the harvest in Scripture. To sew and to plant take time. Parenting (and the Christian life isn't a sprint. It is a marathon. There are no quick fixes, no book or method or even curriculum that will solve all of our problems in an instant. But there is grace-- amazing, abundant, wonderful grace.
All too often my response to my children's behavior is due to my own sin -- my own inconsistencies, or even my own pride. I fear what others will think of my children or my parenting. Gal. 6: 12-13 addresses this:
"They want an easy way to look good before others, lacking the courage to live by a faith that shares Christ's suffering and death. All there talk about the law is gas. They themselves don't keep the law! And they are highly selective in the laws they do observe."
Those Galatians sound so hypocritical! Oh how I can relate. I often do not deny myself, give in to my own selfishness and yet I am shocked to see my children do the same?
"For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate." v14
I have been set free, just like the Galatians, free from sin, free from death, yet I have created my own "stifling atmosphere" in my home. This is not what I want. I want an atmosphere of grace-- the one Christ died for. When my children look back on our family and our home, may they see parents that were slow to anger, quick to encourage, patient to allow them to try-- succeed or fail, training them and correcting them with the amazing grace demonstrated by Jesus Christ. This doesn't describe me right now, but how glad I am that He's still working on me!