Article Aug 25, 2017

Parenting perfection and what our kids need most

Many mommy blogs and parenting articles are about what we can do (or should do) for our children. We read articles, blog posts, and books about making our kids more grateful, ways to show them more grace, ways to better train and discipline, and even ways we can better feed them. We want to be better mothers who do good works for our family. This is a good desire, and one we have evidence for from biblical principles and commands.

But many of these mommy blog posts miss our children’s greatest need. They need a greater good work than we can offer them; a good work of the heart that comes from the Holy Spirit.

The burden of motherhood isn’t on us

For those who have children, mothering is one of the most important things we do in life. How we mother is vitally important. But it’s easy to read all the mommy blogs, and then turn around and think it’s all up to us and about us. It’s easy to feel like the future of our children depends entirely on us. We can feel the pressure crushing us slowly as we skim social media and the blogosphere. But Christ’s burden is easy and light (Matt.11:30), because it’s not based on our good works and accomplishments, but on the good works found in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ himself. When we trust in what he has and will accomplish, we’ll find rest for our souls (Matt. 11:29).

What our kids need most

Not many motherhood articles focus on what we can’t do, which is change our children’s hearts. And a heart change is exactly what our children need most. We can’t control our children’s hearts, we can’t apply a step by step approach here, or conjure up a pure heart from our good biblical mothering. Ravi Zacharias says, “Jesus did not come to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive.” Our children need resurrection. And this is a good work we can’t do.

We don’t trust in our good works for our salvation. But do we trust in our good mothering works for the salvation of our children? I know I tend to rely on myself too much. I have been naturally gifted by God with words, so I tend to trust in my gift of communication to sway people, including my husband and children. I think maybe if I just speak enough truth to them they’ll change. A lot of mothering is based on communication, and God uses our mouths as instruments to change our children’s hearts, but our words themselves, without the power of God, will never be effective. So, my trust should not be in my own words, but in the better word spoken by God through his son Jesus. This better word was sealed when Jesus rose from the dead. It’s the power of Christ’s resurrection that cvan bring my children’s dead hearts to life.

Our children need more than our good mothering works—they need the grace of God.

In the Gospels, we see Jesus perform many miracles. Many of them included raising the dead to life. One such account is in Matthew 9:18-19, 23-26, when a ruler bows before Jesus and says, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live” (Matt. 9:18). When Jesus goes to the man’s house there are already professional mourners there weeping and wailing. Jesus tells them, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping” (Matt. 9:24). The mourners laugh at him, but still go outside. Jesus then takes the girl by the hand, and she rises from the dead. This physical healing is a representation of a deeper spiritual healing that Jesus came to accomplish; and not coincidentally, through his own death and resurrection. He brought people to life to prove his power over death. And he’s still doing this today.

Who am I trusting in?

May we be like the ruler who bows before Jesus and says, “I know with you my children will live.” May we not trust in our own good mothering works, but trust in the good works of the Spirit who will give our children a heart of flesh, instead of a heart of stone (Ez. 36:26). A clear indication for me that I’m trusting too much in my own words is my lack of prayer. We need both, though, to effect change in our children’s hearts. God can use my words, but he’ll also use my prayers. We can be like the father in this Gospel account when we approach the throne of grace in our children’s greatest need. We can go to the Source of change itself.

So, our children need more than our good mothering works—they need the grace of God. In Romans 11:1-6, Paul recounts an Old Testament passage where the prophet Elijah appeals to God against Israel. Elijah says, “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life” (Rom. 11:3). God replies to him with, “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal” (Rom. 11:4). While Elijah sees hopelessness and despair in Israel, and he feels a great need, God has already been working and saving. Paul goes on to say, “It is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Rom. 11:6). Elijah didn’t see the grace of God at work in the hearts of some of the Israelites. But it wasn’t about Elijah or up to him to save God’s people, because God was already saving them himself. It was about the power of God’s saving grace. And it still is today, for us and for our children.