My oldest was a pretty stellar Terrible Two. If Terrible Twos got awards, she would have earned top prize.
One day, she asked for a snack. I said, “Sure, let’s go see what we can find.” After a few minutes of near-tantrums because I dared to suggest something she had no intention of eating ever, I offered her a slice of cheese. This made her happy. I proceeded to slice the cheese and my child turned into a raving lunatic.
“No! Not that way! Not that WAAAAAAAY!” She yelled and threw herself against the floor. Apparently, my knife skills were sub-par.
“If you behave like this, you will not get any cheese,” I said.
“NO YOU DON’T!” My little darling thrashed against the cupboards. I scooped her up and plopped her in her crib, where she continued to spiral out of control.
I stood in the living room while she banged her crib against the wall and screamed at the top of her lungs. I was stunned. I had done nothing to provoke this kind of behavior from her. In fact, I had done everything right. Still, she responded with willful disobedience. Her actions had nothing to do with my parenting skills or lack thereof. They had everything to do with the sinfulness of her heart.
Later that day, when my Terrible Two was sleeping like an angel, I thought about how parenting is like a three-legged stool. My husband and I are one leg. God is another. But my child is the third. And sometimes, my child does not want to be part of a three-legged stool. My child wants to be a Pogo stick.
All the perfectly cut cheese in the world will not make that child compliant to the desires of the other two legs.
It is in those moments, when my child is not responding to my labors with an overgrowth of the Fruit of the Spirit, that I must remember I am not in charge of the results. That is a work of God. God must change my child’s heart.
How God chooses to work in my children’s lives is sometimes messy, frustrating, and discouraging. It does not always look the way I think it should. But the results of my work do not change my calling or my commitment to parent in a godly way. I labor diligently and faithfully because God has commanded me to do so. I love God. I love my children. He does all the rest.
Sometimes, He allows me to see the fruit of my labor right away. He gives me a child with a very moldable, sensitive heart and my good parenting almost always results in immediate good fruit.
But another child may have a very different disposition. I might struggle with that child on a daily basis, and I may never see him come to obedience. My heart breaks at the thought! I am tempted to cry out to God, “Please, don’t give me a child who will not come to know you!”
I have grieved so much over the hearts of my children that it borders on idolatry. The salvation of my children, and their hearts of obedience, mean so much to me that it threatens my faith in a sovereign God. I am tempted to work for them instead of for God, to hope and trust in their goodness rather than in the goodness of God. And that is idolatry.
I must trust the sovereignty of God more than I desire the salvation or sanctification of my children. I must follow Him even if my children do not. I must work for Him regardless of whether or not my children join me in my labors and give their lives in service to Him as well.
That is a hard word. That requires a level of faith and trust that aches. I must trust in the goodness of God concerning my children, even if that means He takes them over the long, hard road. Sometimes, He lets a child suffer the consequences of having a rebellious heart. He lets that child’s hardness break him, and He lets that child’s hardness refine me.
That, I find, is the hardest thing I’ve had to trust God for.
But it is also the best thing, because if I could work for the goodness of my children, and was guaranteed of the results, I would not need faith. Parenting would become a work, and I would subject myself once again to the slavery of a law I am incapable of fulfilling. I would be lost, and so would they.
I cannot save my children. I cannot even save myself.
The beauty and the agony of the cross is that salvation, and every other good thing on this earth, is a free gift of God. It does not come as a result of my works, even the good work of faithful parenting. It only comes through the work of Christ on my behalf. That is a perfect work, the results of which are guaranteed effective. Christ’s blood always purchases those for whom He died. My children are His to save, and His to refine.
When the results of my work are not what I expected, and my goodness to my children is returned unwanted, it is an opportunity to trust that God is at work for His greater glory. I do not always understand. I do not need to. My job is simply to be a faithful servant, and leave the rest to Him.
Please join us tomorrow for Day 26: Boundaries
For further thought:
1) Read Ephesians 2:8-9. What good work can you do to ensure the faith of you children? This is a trick question.
2) When your children display ungodly behaviors, make it a habit to thank God for showing you their sin. It is better to bring sin to light than to let it harbor in the dark. You may feel like a parenting failure when you see these things. Instead, pray for wisdom to help your child grow in these areas.
3) Consider this verse as it applies to your work as a parent: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord, rather than for men knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Colossians 3:23-24