“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
Grace was my word from God for 2014. This was the second year I had asked and received a word from God and this time, I was ready to put some work into figuring out what the word He gave me meant and doing my part to learn what He wanted me to learn.
Today, while letting my mind wander, I realized another lesson that God had been trying to show me all year. I need to extend grace to everyone. Before you think I’m super mean and stingy with my kindness, let me explain:
I have a friend who has been dealing with a rough situation for years….that’s right, years. God has been showing me that my role in this friendship isn’t to try and fix anything, but just to be supportive, staying out of the way so God has time to work without me butting in. My job is to show grace. Now…showing this person grace is easy. Really easy. We’re close enough and have years of past experiences behind us that grace comes second nature to me with this person.
However, God used my relationship with this friend to open my eyes that I have a child who needs the same grace I willingly give to my friend given to as well. It was a series of different messages that God gave me over a few week span that made me realize a few things. I was falsely under the assumption that I had to be “tough” and hold my boundaries firm or my kids will think I’m easily manipulated and they will take advantage of me. I also falsely assumed that what my child was experiencing was just a growing pain and would eventually disappear or lessen. Well, whether or not the latter is the case, God showed me what my role as this child’s mother truly is, and grace is at the center.
The first thing God reminded me of was this: All of my children are different. They learn differently, they think differently, and they respond to the same “direction” differently. I was listening to Family Life today regarding intentional parenting and one example given during that program was how one child responded better to “we” commands. He was relational and therefore, when the parent offered to come alongside and help with the task, the response was much better. It is not giving in or backing down by coming along your child (my false assumption) – it was responding with grace to the way the child is wired and showing him love while teaching the life skill.
The second reminder God gave me was this: He showed me in a different book, Simplified, that when an area of a person’s life is stressful, it affects the whole person. Instead of being energized and having more to give, the person is drained of energy and has nothing left to give, even for fun, re-energizing activities. While this book was talking about adults and job situations, the same theory could be applied to children. We have a child going through a stressful period that has lasted a few years. I figured as the parent I needed to keep encouraging and pushing because “this is the real world,” and everyone needs to learn to deal with the real world eventually.
However, God opened my eyes through my friend’s experience to teach me that even though I have to instill boundaries and teach life skills to each of my children, we have three kids in our house and each one learns and responds differently. I needed to show one child in particular more grace…on a continual basis. Coming alongside and offering a “we” situation wasn’t being manipulated, it was being loving. Cutting some slack so our child could reenergize after a particularly trying day wasn’t babying, it was showing grace. Reading through the harsh words and seeing the heart behind the frustrated speech wasn’t excusing behavior…it was showing that our child is still valued and loved even when he or she feels unlovable.
As much as I’m continually praying that my friend’s situation will soon change for the better, I’m almost glad I’ve been invited to walk this journey as God used it as the final element to open my eyes to ways I needed to show grace in my parenting.
Parenting is hard – I know just because God has revealed the direction He wants me to take in parenting I won’t always get it right. As long as I begin to err on the side of grace instead of boundaries and rules, I’ll be learning what God is teaching me…using His grace.
Grace doesn’t mean excusing behavior…grace means despite the behavior, you are loved!
© Cheri Swalwell 2014