We have behavioral regressions happening in our home. Issues we thought had been resolved are cropping up again and are dominating our days. They affect everyone; no man is an island and the misbehavior of one truly does impact everyone around them.
I’m not immune to the parenting posts and blogs and books and the impression they give that if I follow a few certain steps my children will immediately respond favorably. And if they’re not responding? Well, that must mean there’s an error in my parenting strategies somewhere. But when my mind slips on that mental slide, I have to quickly rein it in and face the facts: my children are human and humans are sinners and sinners need a Savior. At this point, the majority of them have no inclination to curb those carnal impulses. If they want something, they yank it away from someone else. If they’re angry, they scream or throw something. If someone hurts them, they hurt back. Self dominates in those adorable little bodies and we all know it. The parents’ responsibility is to create the boundaries of behavior and consistently enforce them.
And there are days when that goes well. I see progress in myself and them as I accept the training process and respond to their struggles with compassion and gentleness. And then there are days when I’m back to the beginning and it seems like all of the old habits have returned: in them and me. Their misconduct is met with frustration and impatience on my part and we face off with determined glares and rigid posture. After a flurry of warnings and consequences, no one feels peaceful inside.
It’s following times like that when I’m reminded of how much I’m included in the first paragraph of this blog post. The flesh versus spirit battle that I see so vividly in my offspring is a daily constant for me as well; I just tend to mostly gloss over it with creative excuses. The fact is that this daily battle with sin is opportunity for daily doses of grace- for them and me. This doesn’t mean that sinful behavior is excused or given room to flourish; it does mean that steps off the path are met with compassion and grudges aren’t held.
Romans 8 has a long list of things that won’t separate us from the love of God once we are His. I think I need to make a similar list for my children. Nothing can separate them from my love: neither temper tantrums nor broken treasures, neither thrown objects or screaming, neither neglected chores or routine late night wake-ups, neither sibling squabbles or endless complaining. This isn’t so much a reminder for them as it is for me. Just as God doesn’t hold my hourly failures against me because of His great love for me, I need to show continual grace towards my children because of my unconditional love for them.
Romans 8 also holds that beautiful reminder of all things working together for good- and every day there is some good to hold on to. Perhaps it’s belly laughing together or genuine interest in family worship or children playing amiably together, or a hilarious story being shared or a moment of quiet in the house. The good is there and is just as valid and real as the things that are less than favorable. Remembering the good when I engage with my children is another form of grace upon grace.
I cannot hold my children to a standard of perfection; neither can I hold myself to that standard either. But every day I need to encourage each of us to keep moving forward because God’s grace allows us to not call it quits.