“Mom, sing Amazing Grace.”
For years the bed time song has been Jesus Loves Me. Without fail, every night. Until my child recently learned the story of John Newton, a violent slave trader who came face to face with the grace of God, renounced his horrific actions, determined to serve the Lord with his remaining years and penned these emotion filled words:
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me…”
How we need grace. With each year that passes I am more aware of my need for grace and how merciful God really is with me.
Oh, how a child needs grace. Grace to a child is like cold water after they’ve ran around, climbed a tree and jumped on a trampoline. They must know that God has an immeasurable amount of grace for their mistakes, and that as we grow in our love for Jesus and dwell in his grace, we seek to demonstrate it to them in person.
As I’ve watched my own son be drawn deeply to the story, author and words of this song I have relived the times in my own childhood where I felt there was grace for everyone but the child. A standard of immediate obedience, or else. And then what do we do? We place that on understanding on God. I must immediately obey…or else.
My “brave yes” journey has been my response to an invitation to say yes to God simply out of a desire to please him. No fear. Just perfect love. It’s growing from a place of understanding that I have been given the freedom to choose and this kindness from God has led me to a place of repentance and desire to surrender my life to his perfect will.
Grace is this beautiful, undeserved favour, that is so wonderful to be the recipient of, and so hard to be one the one extending.
And yet to a young heart, next to the love of Jesus, there are no words so peace-filled as the words of grace over their less than perfect life.
I’m in a unique season where I am the primary caregiver and teacher of all of my children. I’m the first responder to all injuries and the referee to every fight. In the course of my day there are so many moments that require grace – of course for me, but for my children. I see shame creep across faces, anger burn, and greed descend. At least in my house, we all know we are sinners saved by grace yet individual moments present me with the choice: do I represent the law or grace?
Romans 6 says, and I’m summarizing, that grace grants us freedom to choose our own master: sin or God. And when we choose for ourselves that we will serve God, obedience becomes heart deep.
In that past I may have been more concerned about day to day obedience that simply kept my life in tact. But as the years go on and I see little humans turning into bigger ones who have real dreams and aspirations. I want to see a grace-work in their lives that is heart deep and stays with them every single day for the rest of their lives.
In the mornings my kids and I read and pray together and we have opportunities to develop character and cultivate beautiful truths. It is in those emotionally diffused moments where hearts are vibrant and open, energy is fresh and we can dive deeper. But truthfully I am finding that the moments of tension, fighting and struggle are where grace simply must shine the brightest.
“All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down.”
Romans 5:21 MSG
Grace wins, hands down.
That, my friends, is the message I want my children to grow up with every day of their lives. A knowledge that mama was an aggressive forgiver and an extender of second, third and one hundredth chances.
I believe we must disciple, mentor, and seek to cultivate all that is good, pure and lovely. Then over all of that we must seek to model Christ, with grace, heaped upon grace, heaped upon grace (John 1:16).
Boy, this is a journey for me, because the patience required to dish out grace upon grace when we’d just like to do hand out justice upon justice, is tough. And the good news is, there is grace for me as I walk in grace (grace, grace, grace!).
If you’re a practical person that likes something tangible to try here are some questions I’ve been asking throughout our day. When life gets challenging with my children, as I practice grace upon grace over rules upon rules these help me in my endeavour to create space for this great grace to be actively demonstrated:
- Can we calm down together?
- Is there a way we can calm down, take a break, remove ourselves from the distressing situation (yes even if it’s centered around a toy reeking havoc on turn-taking) and start over in a bit. I am finding it takes as many minutes as their age to calm down effectively. When I stay with them to calm down it is less like they’re in trouble and more like we’re just resetting to take a fresh look at the situation.
- Are their basic needs met right now?
- Are they hungry? Thirsty? Exhausted? Do we need to deal with one of those things first before working through the problem? I have one child who simply can’t function when remotely hungry. Grace to them – because I’m so much like that too! Also, a few minutes laying down with an audiobook does wonders to renew energy in my house.
- How am I (as mom) doing right now?
- If I’m not doing well or I’m stressed, exhausted, or haven’t spent anytime with the Lord on my own, chances are I’m already not handling the situation great. I might be the one who needs a few minutes before we work through the problem so this train doesn’t go completely off the tracks! Distressing texts or stressful emails really effects me and I have to be careful not to open up messages that could take away from my energy to be the mom I need to be in that moment. Those things have to stay in a tight parameter to allow me to prioritize the first things. It’s different for everyone. How are YOU doing?
- Can we deal with this more effectively later?
- Is there a better time to go deep with the issue? I have found that our devotion, scripture memorizing, prayer time is a much more effective time to talk about being kind and loving to one another. We read a book called “is it right to fight?” which had our kids in deep conversations for days over how they feel when they get angry. I learned a lot, like the fact that one of my children is often suppressing the urge to bite their siblings when angry. I am seeing their outburst and feeling frustrated over the general noise volume, and yet they feel triumphant in that moment because they’re letting their anger out by yelling instead of biting (I was so proud of that child when they found words to express that big inner conflict!). That book also opened the door to how they feel if my husband and I argue (yep, that was a tough one to hear!).
- What’s the atmosphere like?
- Are you somewhere that is getting the kids really riled up? Is it overstimulating? Too loud? Has the tone not been set for what’s expected of them? What conversations are taking place? If they are expected to wind down for bed, does the house reflect that? Is the lighting soft? Is the music calm? Have the issues of the day been laid to rest knowing that there is new mercy for the morning? I have found that asking questions about what is happening is one of the fastest routes to a turnaround. Before homeschooling we were rushing a lot and I quickly found out my kids did not respond well to rushing. It was sucking joy right out of our atmosphere. Some big changes needed to be made to cultivate and protect the environment we desired.
These five things that create some breathing room and a moment to pause and prioritize grace over the letter of the law. They are human beings, just like us adults, and need to be nurtured, cared for, protected and prioritized. They need grace. Excessive, over the top, almost a seemingly absurd, but perfectly natural, amount of grace.
I hope this is helpful to someone and that hearing from another mama in the trenches encourages you that you’re not alone in the quest to do your best and not simply take the shortcuts that lead to immediate results, or turn a blind eye. In the words of John Newton:
Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come
‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home
Grace to you!