topics:
Grace

We recently had house guests, the kind that stay a few days.

This always makes me nervous. 

I worry about my cooking, if the bathrooms are clean enough…if there’s extra room around the table, you know how it is. It can be stressful for Type A people like me.

During conversations, over dinner, and in general, I kept catching myself over-correcting my kids. I was scrutinizing their every move, closely watching for bad attitudes, micro-managing their behavior and wanting them to be perfect little Christian children.

I’m not sure if it was just a lack of grace or a desire to impress our company, but I didn’t like what I was doing.

By the end of the weekend, I was exhausted, not from the company or the extra work that goes with it, but from me. I was tired of the invisible pressure.

I was trying too hard to make my kids into what I thought they should be.

I want my kids to have Christ-like character traits. I want them to be Christians. But sometimes, I am conforming them to Christianity, rather than letting Christianity transform them.

I’ve seen kids raised in Christian homes, sent to Christian camps, schools, surrounded by “Christian” things, only to go wild and delve into sinful activity when those restraints are lifted.

I’m not against raising our kids in positive settings. I think they all have their place. But in every child’s life, at some point, there will be testing. If they’ve only conformed to Christian practices and standards without being transformed by Christ, they will fail.

My greatest desire is for Jesus to be real to my kids. I want them to turn to Him, even before they come to me. I want them to know Him, to fellowship with Him, to touch the scars in His hands and tremble at His holiness.

And this won’t happen because I demand behavior that I deem “Christian.” I honestly think that making them conform to Christianity at every turn is harmful.

It’s my job to lead them to Him. But then I have to step back and let Him move in their hearts.

I waved goodbye to the guests and determined to bestow grace on the people in my house.

Saving grace.

I’m raising my kids to be Christians.

But He will turn them into disciples. 

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

by Kristen Welch, We are THAT family

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  1. 1

    I am the mom to three young adults and it is not always easy as we see them make choices that are not glorifying to the Lord but then we all have pasts(thank God I am not where I once was) and we are not there ourselves as Creflo Dollar said yesterday “we are masterpieces in progress”- until we meet Jesus face to face. As a mom it is very easy to fall between Law and Grace but then I reassure myself-God loves them more than I do and there is no sin too big that can not be covered by the blood of Jesus-AMEN!! I need to let the Holy Spirit work in their lives because as much as I want for them to walk with Him it needs to be something they do with His calling and guidance. I am trusting in His perfect call and timing on their lives.

  2. 2
    Carolyn says:

    Kristen,
    Thanks for your post. I used to suffer from this greatly. I was always comparing my kids to some ideal instead of honoring them and enjoying them for exactly who they are each day. In the comparison game, no one ever wins, there is always someone better. This behavior was really hurtful and at times, I find myself falling back into it, but I am much better able to refocus and remember how wonderful they really are.

  3. 3
    Rachel Joyce says:

    That was wonderful!!!

  4. 4

    I never thought of it like this, but YES. I try to make my kids conform to what I think they should do instead of letting Jesus ‘train’ them. Or for them to call on Jesus. Hmmmm… very good post.

  5. 5

    Love this, Kristen — I have to step back and let Him move in their hearts.

    My two are in college now, and I took the same approach you’ve described. A lot of my church friends disagreed and thought I should make them quit activities that conflicted with youth group events. Every family situation is unique and the decisions should be bathed/soaked/drowned in prayer.

    This worked for us. Thanks for sharing!
    Susan

  6. 6

    “It’s my job to lead them to Him. But then I have to step back and let Him move in their hearts.” – So encouraging. We all dance that fine line of pushing vs. leading.

  7. 7

    Kristen, thank you for such an open, honest, and transparent post…I see myself in your word-pictures…as a mom of two young adults, and now a grandmother of a newborn baby boy, I am learning day-by-day to hold them loosely…to ask Jesus to help me love them with grace and truth…I wrote about this in my blog post…
    http://bethwillismiller.blogspot.com/2011/09/rembrandts-return-of-prodigal.html

  8. 8
    Melissa O says:

    Thank you! Great post and very timely! Just what God is addressing in my heart lately.

  9. 9

    I LITERALLY just had the same thing happen…the guests, the thoughts – but you put them into WORDS. You’re right! Thank you!

  10. 10

    Wisdom coming from you this morning, Kristen :) .

    As a mom to older teens now (OMW, the oldest will be 20 in two weeks!!!), I know exactly what you mean. When kids are young, they mimic what they’re taught; their faith is external almost. About performance? They don’t mean it to be, but they receive positive reinforcement, and kids are natural pleasers, so it makes sense.

    The beauty…faith made REAL is when it’s THEIR faith–no longer to please a parent, no longer one “imposed” on them, but when it’s clear Christ is important to them because He’s working within. To see that is grace and gift.

    (much love and grace to YOU!)

    xo

  11. 11

    Love this on so many levels! Thank you for sharing

  12. 12
    Rachel Joyce says:

    That was wonderful! Thank you.

  13. 13

    LOVED this post! My kids are pretty much grown now, but I so wish I had NOT done this as much (sigh)…. “sometimes, I am conforming them to Christianity, rather than letting Christianity transform them.”

  14. 14

    Thank you! I am struggling with this in myself for my two tween daughters. Knowing that it’s my responsibility to share Christ with them and His truth, but having to step back and trust that God is working in them; even when I don’t see the changes I have hoped for. It’s so hard to let go and not feel that I am failing at times. Thank you for your encouragement and to know that I’m not alone.

  15. 15

    My mom has an awesome perspective on this – we were just talking about it yesterday. She always tells young moms who ask for her advice “Get your kids into a youth group where they experience the presence of God, not just a social club, but where the presence of God is alive and active. Once they have that in their hearts, God co-parents with you.” And y’know what? It works. The presence of God got into us. And our parents, while always available to us, let us have our journeys. They didn’t try to control us. But they did find us a place where we could experience the presence of God with our peers. None of us are perfect adults, we’ve all made mistakes and had tough times, but the one thing that has held true is we’ve never strayed from the Lord. Because we experienced His presence.

    My mom has some amazing things to say about parenting. She’s a wise lady. :-) I think she’ll write a book someday.

  16. 16

    Kristen, I think you’re much like the rest of us — wanting the best not only for our children but from them. Generally, what we see them doing isn’t as offensive or troublesome to others as it to us. But, all that being said, I was you some 40 years ago when my son was growing up. And I always chastised myself later because of it. God’s grace covers us all, including our children. We just need to be mindful of that in all things and at all times.

  17. 17
    Jennifer says:

    Amen sister…I was one of those kids ….raised to worry about what others would think and was always supposed to be perfect in my ‘christian walk’. And you’re right…as soon as I was let loose; I was gone for many years from ‘that life’ – living a life away from God and all the blessings of walking with him. Only in the past 10 years – I’m now 66 and living with severe COPD have I realized what I have missed over those 40 years. Thankfully our father is a loving God and welcomes me back into the fold…and I am so filled with joy.

    I’m watching three of my five grandchildren being raised to walk and talk with the Lord. To truly know Him. It’s a beautiful sight! Not all roses, but through any of life’s problems, their first thought is to talk it over with God.

    Youth Groups now are so much fun and led by wonderful young leaders and the kids so enjoy spending time and learning with others….and…they are disciples in bringing their ‘non-christian’ friends to the Lord. God bless you :)

  18. 18

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!! My husband is a pastor, and we have a teenage son. I’m always battling with how much involvement I should have in trying to shape His Christian walk. Now I’m going to pray that Christ transforms Him instead of worrying about how I’m going to transform him to Christ. A very timely word for me. Thank you so much.

  19. 19
    Mary Cathryn says:

    Kristen, your children are going to follow your example in spite of all you do. If Jesus and worship are important to you, Jesus and worship will be important to them too when they are adults. Just be sure they know you love and respect them, and find great joy in being in their company, and thirty years from now they will still give you great joy and want to be with you as much as they can. Hug them as often as you can reach them!! Trust this almost 70 year old mother of two adult daughters.

  20. 20

    Wooowwww. Amazing post. I can’t get over how the Lord used the perfect words of yours to get this amazing message across. Thank you for always being willing to admit your faults and sharing how the Lord is working in your life.

  21. 21
    Jennifer says:

    Love this!

  22. 22
    sonja grogan-albaugh says:

    It is just a miracle to me that when I’m thinking and struggling with something-poof God sends me reminders. And in this case your article was just the shake I needed to get off my child’s back and let God shine through her instead of me trying to form her into my ideal of a Christian child-I hate to think that I could be the reason my child stops believing!
    Thank you so much.

  23. 23

    Yes, yes! A hundred times yes!
    Am I trying to make them perfect to make ME look perfect?
    Probably.
    I am imperfect as are my kids, so that’s the way its gonna be. And unless my kid is damaging another child in some way, I may or may not get to correcting them. Mostly I hope I will, but I know that God can work in them without MY “necessary intervention”

  24. 24
    Tracey H. says:

    Oh how very true this is for me!! Trying to learn that to much “Christianisms” by me will only push them further away!! Learning that they need to follow Jesus, not just know his rules:0) Thanks again for always being honest:0)

  25. 25

    I am right there with you. I’ve done the exact same kind of things. Worrying about “looking good” instead of caring more about what’s really in the heart.

    Your words always resonate with me, Kristen. Thanks for the encouragement.

  26. 26

    Oh, this rings so true for me too. It’s really hard, especially when your kids are teenagers/young adults, to let them make their own choices about what they believe, who they will be, and how they will act. Lots and lots of prayer is necessary, that’s for sure.

    I was changing the sheets on my daughter’s bed this summer (she’s 18–the daughter, not the bed!) and noticed a book lying on the floor. It’s called “Growing up Christian.” She let me read it while we were on vacation this summer, and it’s full of practical encouragement for teenagers who have been raised in Christian homes–mostly about how to make their faith their own. I recommend it to you for the future because it seems a lot of kids struggle with how to make the transition from their parents’ faith to their own. I don’t know the author, had never heard of the book until this summer, but here’s a link if anyone is interested: http://www.growingupchristian.com/

  27. 27

    Thank you so very much for this post! It puts into words what God has been gently teaching me. I love the way you put this- ” I am conforming them to Christianity, rather than letting Christianity transform them.”
    Thank you! :)

  28. 28

    I love this post. But it leaves me asking…”What then do we DO?!” Do we require bible reading and no secular music? Do we let them choose their own tv programs? Do we redirect un-christian like behavior? How much is too much and where is that line and who can ever know?? It’s so overwhelming.

    • 29

      And yes Melinda – I ask and wonder the same questions! God help us!

    • 30

      Hi, another Melinda here! :) I am raising a teen girl in this crazy culture and I totally understand the overwhelmed feeling. Being the “policemen” of all the stuff coming at them makes me feel like a nutty control freak, but I long so much to protect her and obey God’s command to be holy and direct my kids in holy ways. Everyday I pray for wisdom.

  29. 31

    Yes, Amen! I am really praying that the Lord will help me to train up our children the way He wants them to, and not how I want them to. It’s so hard sometimes – wanting to have model children.

  30. 32

    Kristen, I’m reading this as I sit in my car in the parking lot of my church…struggling with feelings of discouragement & disappointment over decisions my 35 yr old daughter continues to make. She is a believer but isn’t living a victorious transformed life in Christ. Thank you for your message for this mom’s heart. I need to stop demanding behavior from her that I deem “Christian” and continue to pray that Christ will transform her. Thank you. It seems as though your blog for moms spans the generations! Keep listening to Him & blogging wisdom to us!!

  31. 33

    Right on! I keep saying,’right on’ to the things you were saying. i took my own children to church and tried to live the best Christian life before them that I could – as a single Mom!
    They are grown now. One of them has a hyper-Christian home like your describe. I know her intentions are good, but I’m concerned for her boys. They are not happy! My son doesn’t go to church at all and expects his kids to be good people on their own. In both cases, Gramma – me, is saying lots of prayers! I had a friend tell me once that while we can live own Christ centered life before others – including family – it is NOT up to us to save them. That’s God’s job!

  32. 34

    Wooooooooooooooow. Brilliant. I was always trained to be a Christian, but no one ever allowed Christ to train me. Consequently, I made bad choices in adulthood until I could figure it out. Now I struggle with how to raise my own kids in their own training.

    This is exactly what God needed me to hear. I now feel free to let Christianity transform them and not CONform them.

  33. 35
    Becky Saddler says:

    My adult son and I had a conversation very much like this devo! Thanks so much for the affirmation!

  34. 36

    Spent 5 years living under what I believed were others expectations of me as the other mother. Knew in my head that forcing behavior wouldn’t work but couldn’t keep my mouth from pushing out the demands. All I needed was a little more trust..and what I know now. God loves the child more than I ever could and that above all else is sufficient. Good message. Thank you for sharing.

  35. 37

    Love this. My daughter is 15. I’ve raised her in a godly home. But I can’t control her thoughts and actions. She’s at an age where I have to trust the Holy Spirit to work in her heart in ways that I can’t. Only He can make Christ real and alive to my children. I pray everyday they’ll grow a passion for him. Thank you so much for this post.

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