For the Lynch family, this new semester means a new job, a new church (New Beginnings Church nbchurch.info), a new city, a (not) new house, a new school, new friends, and new challenges in parenting. This week we're trying to gear up for our back-to-school kickoff party Wednesday night plus two boys birthdays and a birthday party for all three boys this weekend. Change and transition can be difficult to navigate through at times.
We’re truly excited about the new job, new church, new city, new house, new school and new friends. But I don’t know if I can say I’m really excited about the new challenges of parenting. Some challenges you choose, like climbing Everest, learning a new language, opening your own business, eating more healthy, finding Bigfoot, etc. Some challenges God lays before you because, first, He seems to have a good sense of humor, and second, He wants to see not only our children grow but He wants to see us parents grow as well.
The fancy name for God’s growth in us is called sanctification. Many wise people have said that God’s greatest tool for sanctification is marriage. I’d like to ask those people where parenting come in on their list of sanctifying tools! The challenges you don’t look forward to is a growing teen’s attitude that comes with more autonomy or the two-year-old’s fit in the Wal-mart check-out lane or the four-year-old’s refusal to pick up their toys. And I know it has the potential to get more daunting as they continue to grow and explore more freedoms.
My wife and I really prepared well during our first pregnancy. We read all the good parenting books. We set up the baby’s room accordingly. We were ready to hit the ground running once little Sank moved in on us. We had a plan. We were united. We were prepared. We were a team! Seven years later with three little boys all under seven...it seems our team is now outnumbered. There are times when we feel like they have secret meetings to take down our team. Life happens fast and we turned around and these little guys multiplied like Gremlins. She planned on keeping them away from junk food, which probably would have worked if they didn’t have to live with me. I planned on not introducing them to video games or dvd players until they got older, which would have worked if they didn’t have grandparents and if we could have kept them from meeting other kids. We had several other lists that would make sure they grew up to be responsible, moral people who hopefully loved the Lord. But somewhere after the birth of the third boy--that list got lost.
You may have your own lists of things you’re holding to (or those you’ve also given up on now) in order to produce well behaved little people. Can you remember some of the ideals and plans you had when you were expecting your next transition in life, whether a child or something else.
We may even quietly hope that our lists and rules and plans and manners and behavior modification will somehow produce good, Godly young adults some day.
Hold it...that is exactly what the gospel says will not produce good, Godly young adults in the future. The only hope our children have is this risen Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, and the great news (gospel) of His grace being poured out through His cross.
Can you imagine standing before Christ one day and realizing that you really thought that your moral lists would make your children Christians?
What if you realized after your children were 18 that your motivating desire in raising them was for other people to praise you as good parents?
What if only after they've graduated and moved out did you realize that you raised your children in a household of “elder brother” rules (Luke 15:11-32) thinking high functioning perfectionism was the goal in reaching Godliness?
Our lists and expectations and rigid rule-keeping do not do what Jesus Christ does. Period. We need His grace.
Paul’s hope for a bunch of dysfunctional, immature believers in Corinth was this: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). He went on to say that he was trusting in “a demonstration of the Spirit, and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God,” (1 Cor. 2:4,5). Paul recognized that his nor their wisdom nor morals nor manners nor behavior was what they could trust in. Paul knew they needed grace. Does our parenting point more to Jesus and His cross or moral lists and behavior codes?
My wife and I have also struggled with how much we fail in truly shepherding our children towards the gospel. It’s so much easier to fall back on morals and behavior modification instead of addressing sin areas at the heart level with the gospel of Christ. You may have those same feelings of failure in trying to raise your children with parameters of Godly influence. And much like us, you may feel like this process of family-equipping and intentional parenting through the gospel is so difficult, time-consuming, and weighty. Me too. Much failure. But the fact that you and I feel guilty when we fail at meeting up to those standards reveals that we may have misunderstood grace.
That same grace is what removes guilt and condemnation when we feel like we could never “do good enough.” It rescues us because the truth is that we really could never “do good enough.” We could never be or do good enough to get to Him. We could never parent good enough to get our children approved of by Him. Jesus captivating their hearts is their only hope. His worth and majesty and glory are immeasurably sufficient as the supreme sacrifice that has the power to save them and change them.
As one author put it, “Trying to be a good parent will crush you if you do not embrace grace.”1
Let your heart find security and comfort in the fact that your parenting can neither fail grace nor succeed grace. Your job is faithfulness to the great news of Jesus. Grace is His job.
So whether you’re facing a new semester or new changes in your schedule or new scary challenges with your family--it is truly the grace of Jesus Christ you need to cry out for.
And whether you’re fearing your long track record of failure or you’re amped up and excited about a new start in family-equipping in your home--it is truly the grace of Jesus Christ you and I need to cry out for. This Jesus changes everything!
Sankie P. Lynch
Pastor of Families of Children
New Beginnings Church
1 Ed Moll, Tim Chester Gospel-Centered Family (Good Book Company, 2011) 31.