I grew up without a clear understanding of the grace of God.
I knew God saved and that he forgave, but grace, this undeserved thing? It was like liquid through my hands.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I believe I began my journey to understand this vast part of God and I’m still learning every day. However as a mother, I want to raise a family who embraces a grace-filled lifestyle. I’ve been thinking about how we can actually do this in a church that still shoots it’s wounded.
Here are five real world ways that we can begin to raise kids who embrace the idea of a grace-filled God.
1. Give our spouses grace
There is nothing more life-altering, I believe, than simply getting married and allowing that life partner to affect you in so many ways. The people closest to us have the ability to hurt us the most and also have the ability to heal us the best. When we show our spouses grace on a daily basis we teach our children what it’s like to live within a circle of grace with our spouses.
What that looks like: Grace for our spouses is a gentle, loving attitude toward irritating habits, toward sharp words and toward hurtful things. It’s a daily choice to offer gracious, loving care to our mates even when it’s hard. When our kids see this, I believe they begin to understand that a lifestyle of grace is possible.
2. Practice grace in our female relationships
I don’t have to tell you that girls can be mean. And I’m not just talking about tweens or teens, but adult girls. Yes, you and me. Our daughters and sons watch how we treat other women. They watch it and they mimic it. They see how we treat our friends and it becomes a part of what they think is normal. If we want our children to grow up in a way that they learn to be grace-filled and be that way in their own relationships someday, then we need to take the first step and BE grace to our girlfriends.
What that looks like: Grace for our friends is truly, honestly forgiving them when they wound us. Girls hurt other girls. It happens too much and when we truly forgive our friends, our children see this. They notice it. They won’t hear the grumbling we do when someone irritates us because that irritation will be covered in God’s grace. We don’t make “black lists,” we allow relationships to be renewed if they’ve been hurt and we take the first steps when things have gone awry.
3. Show grace in our parenting
Our kids are people. I mean, they are fully formed souls and fully completed humans who are deserving of the respect that we give any human being on earth. That said, shame or oppression should never find its way into our parenting. When we parent well (with good boundaries and appropriate consequences for misbehavior) we show our children respect. When we allow their disobedience to be just that, disobedience, and not something that offends us personally, we show them grace. I believe that parenting must be a healthy balance of boundaries and grace (just like God does with us) and our children will carry that on into their own families when they get older.
What that looks like: For every family, this might look different. In my home, it means that once in awhile, after a conversation about why their misbehavior is wrong and both the spiritual and real world consequences of bad choices, I might give them grace. I think that coupled with good boundaries and regular consequences, a “grace” once in awhile is good for both my soul and the souls of my daughters. It also means listening to them (if they are old enough to verbalize this) when they explain why they made the choice they did. Everyone wants to be heard.
4. Reject legalism
Legalism is the antithesis of grace. Legalism says that the law is still king and in essence, Jesus’ blood has not redeemed anything. Legalism says that grace is for the weak because “truth” is more important than anything else. Legalism takes “truth” and makes it into an idol. It’s important that our hearts and our churches and our groups of friends are free from legalism because it hampers a child’s ability to grow up in a healthy understanding of who God really is and how grand His love and grace is.
What this looks like: Choose Christian communities to be a part of that embrace grace. Choose friends and life-doers that embrace a grace-filled lifestyle. Analyze the why’s of rules in your home: if there are sufficient moral and practical reasoning behind them, then keep at it. But if a rule is there because it is a rule and no other reason, examine the necessity of it. Talk about the love of God with your children and daily, together, recognize the ways that He loves us and blesses in both big and small ways.
5. Forgive even when there is not repentance
It would be a sad day if there was only forgiveness if there was repentance. God accepts us while we were sinners, before we turn around and walk the other way. A grace-filled life (and one that will trickle down toward your kids) is one where we forgive before the wound has been healed, we offer grace before the “I’m Sorry” has been said and we love that person back into right relationship with us. What if they never apologize? I have realized that there are some wrongs that will never be made right. Do I then live my life in bitterness and unforgiveness toward the wounder? I can’t. It’s impossible. I forgive before the repentance and that is what makes my heart move forward.
What this looks like: For our kids to learn this, I believe it is a life long journey for them as it has been for us. Is there a one of us, as adults, who doesn’t have a little twinge of unforgiveness toward someone? It’s hard and grace isn’t easy. But when we daily make the choice to forgive, and when we begin to use language of grace and forgiveness in our homes, I believe our children will come away from these 18 years with a foundation underpinning of grace and forgiveness.
Grace in our families looks different in everyone’s home, but if we are mothers, I believe that one of our jobs to raise children who love God and His grace as much as we do.
What have you found that helps teach your kids about grace and forgiveness?