Child rearing books have always held a special interest for me. And I mean, from pre-teen years to date(yeah, that's a pretty long time :-P), I've always had a particular fascination with reading books about child training (come to think of it, marriage books fall into the same category).
Not, as some may think, because I disagreed with the way my parents were raising me, actually quite the contrary. My fascination is largely a result of one of the hallmarks of who my parents are: a constant drive to be learning and growing.
Recently, though, all that information has become secondary as I was challenged by my most recent child training book Grace Based Parenting to stop looking for a parcel of methods, and look, really look, at Scripture and how God parents us as His children. This post is an attempt to begin processing all I've been learning by doing just that.
Some day I will stand before God and answer to Him for how I have raised my children. On that day, He will not be asking me about the decisions they have made.
He will ask me about MY choices:
did I love His children with my words and actions?
did I follow Him passionately?
did I obey Him in all that He asked me to do?
did I serve my family with joy?
did I use the talents He gave to further His kingdom?
did I point my children to Christ as the only atonement for sins, God as a loving and holy Father, and the Holy Spirit as the only way to truly change?
What is important for me to remember as a mother becomes pretty simple.
I am commanded to love my children, and this is what that looks like:
Love is the commitment of my will
to your needs and best interests
regardless of the cost.
I cannot change my children. The only person I can change is myself. Therefore, I must do what is right despite what my children do, and leave the results to Christ.
My children are sinners, so I shouldn't be surprised when they do sinful things. (This was a great aha moment for me - why in the world am I so shocked by some of the things they come up with when I know very well they are depraved, sinful human beings?)
On their own they can't do what's right, and they can't change their hearts - they need salvation, and they need the work of the Holy Spirit in them.
Which makes it extremely dangerous to merely train them to do what I want to avoid punishment... resulting in either a selfish little prig who has no concept of their own sinfulness, a suicidally depressed navel gazer who realizes their own sinfulness and can't seem to do anything about it, or a devil-may-care, do-what-I-feel-liker, because they can't change anyway.
I have a responsibility to teach the ways of God - constantly - to my children. These are not nebulous, man-made laws and rules though. These are the commandments of God, the ways of God, Who God Is, SCRIPTURE! So I bring every choice and decision back to Scripture, and teach my children to do the same.
Sola Scriptura has meant so much more to me than ever before. It has given me the freedom to make decisions on issues that are not noted in Scripture based on the principles of Scripture and the individuality of our family and each child. It has driven me to my knees as I realize my own inadequacy and how much I fall short of Christlikeness.
Intertwined with this process, I am losing my fear that letting go of a lifestyle or choice that I can't defend from Scripture will ruin my children, or that my children need to "look/act" a certain way. Granted, I need to make sure we are seeking Christ's direction for our family, and living in a way that is edifying for us, and not a stumbling block for those we meet. But if that criteria is met, I can be at peace making decisions that are right for our family.
Ultimately, what it all comes down to is something not at all new: focus on my children's hearts and enjoy the freedom to give grace to their actions.
P.S. Part 2 to this focuses a bit more on a method of schooling, but has also impacted the way I view and relate to my children - another angle of all I've been processing recently.