Monkey see... monkey do. I was caught in the cycle of parenting without much grace. It's what I knew... it's what I'd seen. Our four kids were ages 5, 7, 9 and 11 at the time and I had bought a book hoping to find some parenting helps. I would often use guilt to motivate my kids to behave...I was parenting the way I had grown up, but inside, I knew there had to be another way. I didn't know what was missing, but I knew I longed to change. I didn't know how to be gracious with my children. It was the area I struggled the MOST!
I expected perfection. I didn't realize it at the time, but that's what it was. I was full of fear. Fear of failing as a parent. If my kids weren't "performing well", I believed it was a reflection of me rather than my kids being normal kids who were human and going make mistakes. Something I want to blow the cover off of is this:
Legalism is very deadly to those closest to the us. It sucks the life out of children and no one knows because it just looks like "good behavior".
I believe this is why Pastor's Kids have such a high rate of rebellion. Everyone thinks things are just peachy for the Pastor's family, when in all actuality there is a lot of pressure put on this kids to conform and act like they're perfect and when they are not, they need to "fake it". After a while, it grows daunting for the kids. They throw in the towel saying, "I can't live up to perfection so what's the point!" This is why PK's either rebel or become over achievers. They live with less grace than the average kid. Not only can they have parents who fear being seen as failures if their children are not the best kids around to give as an example to the world, but they can have a whole church family that has an opinion about their behavior...or lack there of.
People pleasing parents. Legalistic legacy. The push to perform perfectly. Add in Full-time ministry. This can be a lethal combination for a child. This was our household at times. This was what I knew. This was how I had been parenting. But PRAISE GOD FOR HIS GRACE!!!
As I began to read the page of this book, I saw a whole new way to look at parenting -- AND IT INVOLVED A WHOLE NEW WAY OF LOOKING AT MY GOD! Heavenly Father. As I began to see how God "parents" his children according to His Word, I saw a very different picture. It involved lavish amounts of grace. He was to be my example in the way to parent. He was full of mercy and grace! I had not been. I understood for the very first time...
I could not give away what I didn't have. If I didn't know GRACE, I couldn't show it to my children. I had found what I was longing for!
Many of us have things that we want to model after our parents. But sometimes we also say, "I'll never do that when I'm a parent." Sometimes it's a good thing. There were lots of things my parents did well, but one thing I didn't want to carry to then next generation was the legalism we'd lived in. The day I began to understand Grace was the day these chains loosened. I would even pray, "God, help me not be my dad." God answered one day. He said, "Quit looking at your dad and trying NOT to be him. Look at me and be like Me!" This was the beginning. The Lord was so good to show me this while my kids were young, so that grace could be a part of our lives. I am not a perfect parent. Far, far from it! Just ask my kids :) But understanding God's Grace has also given me the room to not have to "fake" that I'm something I am not...perfect!
(And I must add one thing. This grace became a beautiful point of healing between my dad and I as well! Those of you who knew my dad know he was a wonderful guy! I love him and miss him so much. Words can not express how grateful I am that Dad and I had the opportunity to share some stories together about how we both were learning about Grace. He had been trying to break free from legalism, too! This grace became especially evident in his life the couple years before he died. It's part of why I can share this freely here...I know it's what he would share. Because of God's Grace, he didn't have to "fake" that he was the perfect parent anymore either. I can't wait to see him in heaven so we can pick up the conversation where we left off! I want to hear the rest of his story and share stories of my journey, too. Grace is a beautiful thing. It brings healing. It brings LIFE!)