A New Vision
Maybe your child is well behaved, or maybe you feel at your wits end with how to bring about obedience. Maybe you were excited to start a family, but now, five years in and three children later, your hopes and dreams seem disillusioned. You used to be a patient and happy person, but lately you’ve found yourself anxious, exhausted, and constantly on edge as you try to anticipate what your children will throw at you next.
While my husband and I aren’t exactly in that stage with a mere six month old daughter, there were three years that I spent being the nanny of two young children who required, as all do, training and discipling. My sin was exposed to me just as much as theirs, and I often felt my lack of grace and inability to bring about the “good behavior” I was trying to achieve.
Paul Tripp’s book, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles that Can Radically Change Your Family, has been a breath of fresh air as he biblically addresses the struggles parents face by pointing back to the gospel, casting a vision that will give fresh perspective and inspire you to grow in the grace of God as a parent.
So we’re parents, but what does that mean? It was God’s idea to place children under the authority of adults who would shepherd their hearts and we, as parents, are the primary tools of transformation He desires to use in the lives of our children. It’s an incredible job description, but one that can commonly leave us discouraged.
“God has given you authority for the work of change, but has not granted you the power to make that change happen. But we buy into the delusion of thinking again and again that that power is ours.”
God is in authority over us and has given us His laws in Scripture that we are called to obey as His children. As parents, we draw from Scripture the laws and rules we set in effect for our families, though they may look a little more specific than “thou shalt not murder.” God’s law shows us our inability because we are not able to perfectly keep it. Our children will also fall short of what we require of them, in accordance to God’s law, and therefore be made aware of their need of a Savior.
Grace for Change
You see, the law plays a crucial part in parenting as it exposes the hearts of our children. But often, we look to the laws we have put into place, and are left disappointed when hearts are still hardened and sin is still present.
This message is woven throughout the entirety of this book. Our children need the law of God. However, it doesn’t stop there because if the law could save, then Jesus’ sacrifice would not have been necessary. We cannot look for the law to do what only grace can.
So while the law is helpful and needful, and may work to bring about the behavioral modification we desire, ultimately, it will not save our children or change their hearts of rebellion.
Parenting is a Process
Mr. Tripp talks again and again about the necessity to look to God’s grace as the instrument of lasting change in the lives of our children. The law cannot and will not ever have the power to change hearts; only to reveal a deeper condition of the heart: sin.
The author goes on to suggest that the most powerful way to affect this change is by first acknowledging what God’s grace has accomplished for us through Jesus Christ. It is by God’s grace we have been rescued from ourselves. This is the same rescuing our children are in need of. It is by grace that we have been given life and have freedom from the bondage of sin–the same life and freedom our children need.
“It’s important to make the mental/spiritual shift from viewing parenting as a series of unrelated corrective encounters to viewing parenting as a life-long connected process.”
Training our children is a moment by moment….by moment…. process in which we must rely on the grace of God for patience, eternal perspective, and a gospel saturated response to the sin we encounter.
Designed to Worship
Something else that resonated deeply for me was the author’s articulation of how we are worshipful beings. The behavior we see in ourselves and our children will come from what’s in our hearts. When we lose our temper or our child hits their sibling, sin is revealed. But taking that a step farther, we can see that the sin is exposing something else: a worship issue.
“Your children don’t so much need character management as they need worship realignment.”
If Jesus Christ isn’t the One we are worshiping, we will always have someone or something else we turn to. What a powerful exhortation as a parent to be watchful of our worship so we can be used of God to graciously help reveal the sin of our children. We’ve been gifted a front row seat in seeing the miracle of the Father changing and molding our child.
The author encourages us not to forget the importance of the everyday moments we’ve been given to show Jesus to our children. We can do this by talking about and marveling at the creation of God all around us, using ordinary things to showcase the glory of our Creator.
We can use moments of discipline to talk about sin and the need for a Rescuer. We can walk in humility, allowing our children to see us confess our inability and need for God, encouraging them to see their need as well. We can be fathers and mothers who spend time in the Word and prayer.
Be encouraged in your parenting journey. Jesus has purchased and given us everything we need to do what He’s called us to, if we’ll only surrender ourselves as tools for the work He longs to do.