I can still remember the first time my oldest son asked for it. He’d callously knocked down his one-year-old brother in pursuit of a toy. I’d seen the utter disregard that he’d demonstrated, and I was coming down the hall, ready to dole out some parental justice…
However, his four word exclamation stopped me in my tracks. He looked up at me, lip-quivering, eyes-pleading, and begged, “Please, give me grace!”
And, I’ll be honest, my first thought wasn’t, “Great, he’s starting to grasp the concept of a gospel of grace that my wife and I have been trying to instill in him.” Rather, it was, “I can’t believe my three-year-old is trying to manipulate me!”
It was in that moment, after my initial thought of how he didn’t deserve to get off the hook so easily that it dawned on me. Isn’t that the whole point of grace? It’s a gift undeserved. It isn’t for those of us who are most obedient, or most well-behaved. Grace is for the chiefs of all sinners, myself included.
You see, my wife and I had read a litany of books on how to raise up our children to understand God’s love and the gospel. On how to teach them, shepherd them, and direct them towards an understanding of who God is and what he has done for us.
We had also secretly judged a whole lot of parents before we had our own kids. Commenting to one another how “we won’t ever let our kids act like that.”
Then, after the miracle of life and our voyage into parenthood began, we quickly realized our error. Our mistake was not only in judging other parents, but thinking that we could follow steps in a book and our kids would turn out just right.
We recognized that we needed an extra portion of God’s grace to just make it through a day, much less figure out how to have perfectly respectful, obedient children.
So, what is the one word we would use to define our parenting? You guessed it…grace. Since we needed grace so much, we decided that would be the theme of our parenting adventure. What better way to show the undeserved riches of the gospel than to extend grace to our children when they don’t deserve it?
We made a decision that occasionally, randomly, and sometimes even extravagantly, we would offer grace to our boys when they least deserved it. When punishment should rightly come, we’d extend grace instead.
Even if, or especially when, our 3-year-old punk shoves down his brother and then tries to manipulate his dad by asking for grace.
Does he have a full understanding of what God’s grace is for him, as a now five-year-old boy? Probably not. But does he know to ask his father to give him grace when he’s fallen short. Yes, he does.
My wife and I won’t win any parents of the year awards. Not with our lack of nutritional balance (pop tarts can be a meal twice a day, right?) and our youngest’s propensity to shove random objects up his nose (it was most recently a chocolate chip). We aren’t perfect, and we know we need *a lot* of grace in our parenting. That’s why we pray that our emphasis on grace will give our boys just a small glimpse of the extravagance of God’s love and forgiveness, and that it will one day drive them to the gospel.