Once in a while, something I read gets under my skin and I can't shake it. Right now, it is the stuff contained in the book Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. I know. The title isn't incredibly compelling, is it? A couple of trustworthy friends told me how great it was, and I am now one chapter from the end. At first it was just seeping into my parenting. But now I'm finding it is spilling into my entire life. I'm realizing that I've moved into a new paradigm, and one that is defined by a new understanding of grace. And that is really messing me up.
Though the concept of grace seems simple, I think it is likely the most misunderstood concept in Christianity. It can simply be defined as "getting what you don't deserve," but even that definition remains an intellectual one. We really can't wrap our minds around the grace that gives us a fresh start every morning, the grace that bears with our every vulnerability, the grace that died in our place. God is the best at grace, and this book repeatedly returns to the point that we need to parent like He parents us.
The thing is, I thought I was a gracious parent. I thought I understood what grace meant. I thought a lot of things. And this book had such an impact on me that I can only conclude that I thought wrong. On the cover of the book, right under the title in smaller print, it says the words, "Set your family free." Kind of a curious addition, I first thought. Free from what? Well, now that I've read it, I have some ideas of things my children need freedom from. Let me just list a few and see, if by chance, your kids need freedom in any of these areas too.
My kids need to be able to live lives free from those rules and regulations I impose which are based solely upon my fears of our "culture". My kids need freedom from my selfish agenda for my day (or for their lives). My kids need freedom from my biases and preferences for some of their personality quirks over others (ie. I love that my daughter is so creative, but go crazy over how slow she is). My kids need freedom from my discomfort with their weaknesses, mood swings, idiosyncrasies, and their complaints about me. I could go on!
Here's the line that's messed me up the most. When facing our own parenting approaches, the book repeatedly asks the reader to ask the question, "Is this how God treats us?" A lot of times, I had to face the fact that the answer was "No. No, it's not." In many cases, I realized I was way harder on my kids (and on myself) than God is on His children. I know some incredibly well-meaning, intentional parents who believe they are right on track with what is popularly seen as "Christian" parenting, and where grace is all but absent in their homes.
Because of this darn book, my eyes are opening to the lack of grace more and more. I'm feeling a deep heart break for these kids, and my own, due to my lack of grace for them up until now. I also realize that if I'm ever going to grow in grace as a person, it has to start with giving grace to myself. I blame you, Tim Kimmel, for turning my program upside-down. Well, it's God's doing, really. And I can't blame God. I can only pray with my whole heart that I will be able to generously pour onto my children some of the lavish grace He's given to me. In my weakness and vulnerability. In my quirkiness. In my mood swings. In my complaining. Every day, I am the child who needs grace, and I'm so thankful that I always, always have it.
"The real test of a parenting model is how well equipped the children are to move into adulthood as vital members of the human race. Notice I didn't say "as vital members of the Christian community." We need to have kids that can be sent off to the most hostile universities, toil in the greediest work environments, and raise their families in the most hedonistic communities and yet not be the least bit intimidated by their surroundings. Furthermore, they need to be engaged in the lives of people in their culture, gracefully representing Christ's love inside their desperate surroundings. "
Grace Based Parenting, by Tim Kimmel