Shame. It is one of the greatest tools that the enemy uses to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). Kill our kindness towards ourselves, steal our ability to experience love and joy, and can destruct relationships like no other. In THIS previous post, I laid out the role shame can play and the truth that shame has NO PLACE to dwell in the heart of a child of God. As we are journeying together through this beautifully messy thing called parenting, I know it is each of our hearts for our children to not only know but experience the love God has for them through the way we love them.
Sometimes when I think about the magnitude of it all, I can find myself nearly begging God for my children to turn out okay – more for their sake than for mine. No one desires for their child to continue to struggle into adulthood or choose to live life contrary to who they are in Christ. I am then reminded and reassured that it’s not all up to me and that my primary act of obedience is to depend on Him and His ways, not my own. To trust what resides within me. Simple in theory, oftentimes oh so challenging in practice. In the book The Cure and Parents, the authors say
“we get to give our kids the best of us– earning permission to influence them, mature them, know them, give guidance to them, protect them, love them, free them, and show them a magnificent God and an authentic life that will hold up for their entire lifetime.” They continued to state, “they get to watch us trusting God. They watch us mature and heal and become freer…they get to enjoy, instead of maneuvering around, the very ones who have loved them most.”
Because I know I am not alone in that, I thought I would share some tangible areas we as parents can walk out fostering love and grace, standing victorious with Christ (and our kiddos) over shame.
Forgiveness is the pathway for love to freely flow. It is the very cornerstone our relationship with God is built on. It was the exact thing that God did in order for him to fully experience us and us to fully experience Him. Therefore, forgiving ourselves and others is essential in experiencing the depth of God’s promises for ourselves, to be an expression of those promises to others, and to experience the fullness of community with those around us. Forgiveness invites acceptance to love someone right where they are; remembering Whose they are to begin with. I know it can sound like all of this is flowery and pretty, but love is hard and messy a lot of the time. But I have experienced trusting God when it is difficult, confusing, and exhausting and watching it turn into a beautiful thing. Walking in our forgiveness from God and extending that forgiveness to ourselves and others removes the barriers allowing love to flow just as it was designed to.
We have all been there. As a kid wanting a place to belong at lunch in the cafeteria. As an adult, really hoping when we walk into that social event we have at least one person we feel safe with. We are wired deeply to be loved and belong. We are all biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually created to love, be loved, and to belong. Love and belongingness is not something we earn. It’s our birthright in Christ Jesus. And if that’s true of our relationship with God, then that is true of our relationship as parent and child. I belong as my boy’s mother and they belong as my sons. Obviously, the experience of this love can for sure be tampered with if anyone in the equation is living in fear, lies, or shame. Even in tough seasons or with personalities that challenge the heck out of us, our kids belong in our home. You belong in your home. You are the chosen parent God so delightfully appointed to parent your child. When we are believing truth about ourselves, and our role as their parent (despite how we feel or the circumstances in front of us) we can communicate those same truths to our children. Speaking truth into their lives a million and one times is so life-giving to them. Especially when the world is speaking the opposite. When we and our kids believe we are loved and belong right where we are, that they are good and wanted despite any poor choices, there is security and trust to battle the lies together.
Even the word vulnerability kind of feels funny. When we are vulnerable and open with ourselves in the environment of grace with God, it gives us the ability to recognize what lies we may be believing about ourselves, God, others, or our circumstances. Vulnerability is simply being honest with yourself. Peeling the onion layers back in our thoughts and feelings and not letting anything stick that does not align with our identity in Christ. When we practice vulnerability, and stand in truth, we are able to have intimacy in our relationship with God and those who love us. Separating behavior from identity for ourselves and our children is a key function in fostering a safe environment for everyone to be free to be vulnerable. Living this out for our kids to see is essential in helping them build the same practice. Showing vulnerability allows our kids to see God at work in our hearts. Me closely watching God work in someone else’s heart is how I came to know Jesus myself! I was drawn to the realness of her walk. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Allowing our kids to see and hear our process of trusting God not only invites them to trust us, but to trust God with their life. The hope is that by our kids watching us trust Jesus, they will be compelled to do the same. “For it is the love of Christ that compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
I oftentimes have to remind myself that my kids are just that…kids. That I surely can’t expect them to handle things well and maturely all of the time or even most of the time. Depending on the age of your children, they are learning emotional regulation, impulse control, and sorting all sorts of thoughts and stimuli simultaneously.
The goal is not to never struggle, but to learn to depend on God in the struggle.
That goes for ourselves as well as our children. This takes TIME. And lots of practice. Heck, I am still learning and growing in how to live out these truths in my own current season. Obviously, the hope is that we see continued growth and maturation, but having realistic expectations for our children goes a long way with our experience of them. As hard as it is, every struggle, teenage outburst, meltdown, or silent treatment is an opportunity for us to meet them in love and grace, speak truth, and walk through the struggle with them. As I tell my boys frequently, “let’s practice our patience” and trust that He makes everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
It is the primary cry of our hearts as parents for our children to come to know, trust, and live as one with Christ. As I mentioned before, it can all seem incredibly overwhelming and daunting at times. I can find myself sometimes more easily thinking of all that could go awry than dreaming of it going well. I am sure I am not alone in feeling sometimes like “ugh, I’m doing all of this and my kids don’t seem to be getting it.” Thankfully our identity is not in our parenting or in our children’s choices. The truth is that we are equipped in Christ Jesus. We have what it takes and you are not going at this alone. Christ in and through you is the only true parenting “tip” in the economy of grace. Know that wherever you are at in your parenting journey, that God has not forgotten you or your children. That if you have trusted Christ in your parenting and your ideas and plans have not played out, that the purpose of the Lord will stand (Proverbs 19:21). If you are a parent in a difficult season with a young child or an adult child, know that the battle has been won and the war is over. Victory has been had. We are not always sure when and how we will get to see the victory play out, but victory still remains true.
In whatever your days hold right now, know that you are not only welcome, but wanted in your community of believers. None of us have it all together and all of us benefit from walking beside each other. Come alongside others and allow others to come alongside you. Perfect love, His love, casts out all fear. And because of that, it is good to be us here with God and with each other- especially in this beautifully chaotic thing called parenting.