You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~Deuteronomy 6:5-7
Squabbling, fussing, arguing, complaining, and the dreaded whining are all common symptoms in my family on this parenting journey! And truthfully, I can do it all also! I often see an outbreak with a transition, busyness in our schedule, at the beginning of a vacation, or in stressful seasons of life. My children will fuss, demand their way, complain and as they grow into their teen years, they may seek to avoid or isolate. Negative engagements are a guarantee, and if I don’t see them for their purpose, I miss something beautiful.
Unfortunately, I often get this perspective very wrong. In my selfishness, I want peace, quiet, ease, and happiness for all. I don’t want squabbles, whining, etc. so I will tend to shut it down quickly with verbal discipline.
Searching out the heart purpose behind a fussy child is the more significant work ~ one of His designs of family life. When I begin to embrace the heart pursuit God desires for each of my children, when I begin to filter their actions through the sieve of Gospel truth, then grace can grow within me for them in the moments of discipline. My heart undergoes a transformation before I ever engage in shepherding theirs. Prior to ever stepping into the bathroom where my child sits, I need to spend a few moments with Him. I need to seek what lies may be at the root of the behavior, determine what flesh is on display, and see both my child and the behavior the way God does.
And often before I can even engage in prayer over my child, I need to spend a few moments looking at the lies, flesh, or sin that welled up in me as all this erupted in my home. That’s just the truth. Most sin sparks sin in others. We have a saying in our home that sin is contagious and can make everyone sick within minutes! So whether the sin is divisiveness, selfishness, fear, worry, anger, pride, you name it, other people will soon be exhibiting symptoms in reaction to the initial sinner. We can all resent the mess out of this contagion, or we can use these moments to declare God’s power, His victory, and His salvation over our desperate need that is on display.
Let’s be warriors for truth! Let’s get down into the midst of the sin and call it out for what it is, not from pride or disgust, No! but from a place of grace and mercy that we have received and we now offer to the sinner in our midst. Let’s be more like Christ was with the adulterous woman or the woman who touched his coat – let’s explore the heart deep within and tend to the wounds, the lies, the fears and apply the salve of great grace, deep love, and complete truth that only Jesus offers through His death and resurrection. Let’s speak the Gospel to our children in ways that make it the most desirable, the most welcoming, the most trustworthy space for them to occupy.
We can create environments where Jesus can shine in all His glory because we are pointing to Him. As we set our own hearts on His truth, we confess our own need for Him as we fail. We assure our children of God’s steadfast love when we resolutely love them despite their failings, despite their sin, despite their flesh. But just like God does not leave us in a space of unrighteousness but rather calls us out to walk with Him in truth and holiness, we also need to be faithful to truth and holiness. Calling sin a sin is not condemnation, not when my heart is humble to the truth that I too struggle with sin.
Parenting with purpose takes time.
And sometimes it feels like all I do is move from one sin moment to another when every child needs special touches and reminders of God’s grace in the face of great sin. But I cling to the truth that these days are the most valuable for the Kingdom. These moments proclaim to the next generation the goodness of our God. Only when sin bursts forth do we see our great need for a Savior. Only when pride declares a godlike desire for worship can we point to the only One worthy of our praise and honor.
These are the days when the worship music plays at full volume and we dance in the unstoppable grace of a God who showers us with love, patience, truth, and mercy.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. ~Philippians 1:9-11