© November 6, 2018 | Schulter Etyang
I’ve been fortunate enough to associate well with older and younger people alike. Throughout the years, I’ve been privileged to lend an ear to parents and to their children within the same family. I get to hear both sides of the story. This happens often in spite of the fact that I have no children of my own. The same is true with Jenny.
A father or mother would inform me what they think is wrong with their child, and when I listen to the child, the child gives me a different view of the same situation. Sometimes, those views are as varied as chalk and cheese.
Many children who come from families where the parents are Christians find it very difficult to relate to their parents. Christian parents are the most challenging to relate to because they are so blinded by their own spiritual experiences and jargon. These words are so familiar, “We didn’t raise this child like this, we taught them the right way, do they realize the sacrifices we‘ve made for them? We’ve done this and that for this ungrateful child, look at how they are repaying me.”
Back in the day when I was a youth leader, a mother accosted me because their daughter was pregnant out-of-wedlock. The mother was dumbfounded, angry, and bitter towards her child. The discipline meted out for such an issue was a one-year banishment from Church activities. After the one year, they reinstated you as a member of the Church. This mother wanted her child to incur this discipline and more. She was livid. Guess what? When she was young, she was pregnant with her daughter, out-of-wedlock. This parent had ignored her own past.
In another case, the mom was a virgin when she got married and required the same from her daughter. When she came home from school and announced that she was pregnant, hell broke loose. The mother became dumbfounded, paralyzed, angry, and bitter. She couldn’t understand how this child, brought up in a Christian home, could do such things. Her resolve? She insisted that her daughter must get more involved in Church, prayer meetings, choir practice, etc. Her daughter was to hang out with other godly kids in the youth group so she could become more godly.
This is the quintessential reaction that many Christian parents have. My children must become more spiritual, and by becoming more spiritual they will not sin. As if this approach has ever worked anywhere. I could tell you countless stories.
The same recurring points are clear. These parents (especially mothers) had a high the regard of the child, or their parenting skills, and a low regard of the power of sin. They underestimated the strength of sin and forgotten that they themselves are sinners.
Christian parent, that child of yours will one day do something crazy that will shake you to the core. Expect it. When it happens, you will question your parenting skills, and your image and credibility will take a beating that’s if your identity, value, significance or worth was built on how good you were as a parent. You will again embark on a project to save your child, but in so doing, you will make matters worse. A bitter truth you need to acknowledge is this – you are trying to save yourself in deciding to save your children. It will be about you, but you will clothe it in spiritual jargon.
So then how should we view our children? What gives us the correct view of who our children are so that we are not surprised or distraught when they sin? The answer is Grace
Grace is the lens through which you should view your kids. Through the lens of grace, you can see who you are – a sinner, and your children for who they are—sinners. Because you are a sinner, you know what sinners do—sinners sin. With this in mind, you will not be too hard on your kid when they sin because as a sinner you expected them to sin.
You will then parent them as God parents you. God has a very correct view of who you are. He knows your frame, the psalmist says. Christian parent, God knows you are a sinner saved by grace, nonetheless a sinner, and a good sinner. And yet when you sin, the Holy Spirit reminds you, you are still the righteousness of God in Christ. You haven’t lost your position and inheritance in the family. When your behaviour is good, you walk in humility and compassion towards other sinners.
We should view our children through the lens of grace. Grace gives us a correct view of who we are, who they are, and God’s super-abounding grace. If we lose sight of these, we will then become dumbfounded, paralyzed, angry, and bitter.
One other thing grace does for you. As a parent, grace gives you equilibrium—a sense of steadiness and balance. Here’s what I mean. We’ve settled that your child will sin. They will. Grace, however, helps you to not take his or her failure as an indictment on your parenting skills. And when your kid succeeds, you don’t take the credit because if you do, the adulation will be short-lived. Grace gives you a balanced perspective of life.
Oh, how I wish Christian parents could learn how to view their kids through the prism of grace. The heartache, disappointment and anguish I see in many Christian parent’s faces, and the alienation I see in their children, are too much to bear.
That’s what grace looks like