I grew up in a “Christian” home with “Christian” parents. I put the word Christian in quotes because it was anything but Christian. We said we believed that Jesus died for our sins, but we didn’t live it. We went to church every Sunday. My sister and I didn’t fight or misbehave in public. On the outside we looked like a pretty good family. We weren’t wealthy, but we had the things we needed to live. The one thing we never had from our parents was grace or unconditional love.
I was taught from a pretty young age that there were things that you could do that would make your parents and God stop loving you, and that you had to work to earn love and forgiveness. Grace was a completely nonexistent concept. I remember my mom telling my dad he couldn’t take communion until he had earned God’s forgiveness, and that made me terrified of God.
Years later I figured out that’s just not how God works. I had spent my whole life as a child thinking that there was something I had to do to make God love me; that me on my own was never going to be good enough. And because I feel like I was robbed of knowing the truth I want my kids to know the truth every minute of their life.
In Lamentation 3:22 it says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.” You read that right, it says it NEVER ceases and NEVER comes to an end. When my husband and I had kids, we decided that we would teach them who God really is, and how His love and grace works based on what it says in the scripture, not what we learn from others.
It’s easy to get a crooked view about God’s love and grace when we use the lens of the world. We live in a world where everything costs something. Nothing is free in the world. And when we forget to remind our children about how God’s love and grace works, it’s easy for the world to remind them how things work in the world.
Imagine how that translates to children. If nothing is free in the world, then God’s love must not be free either. That is what Christian parents are fighting against. We are fighting to teach our children that God loves us right where we are.
I don’t ever want my children to think for one second that love and grace have to be earned.
Don’t get me wrong. I have kids who make bad choices and behave awfully sometimes. There are always consequences for their choices (good and bad), but one thing that I always tell my children when we are dealing out the consequences is, “There is NOTHING you could ever do to make mom and dad not love you. NOTHING! Just like there is NOTHING you could ever do to make God not love you. NOTHING!” It’s sometimes important for us to spell those things out to our children.
Jesus died on the cross for our sins. All of our sins. It’s easy to get caught up believing that some of our sins aren’t covered in the ALL part. I have to remind myself of this sometimes, too. And if I have to be reminded, our children should be reminded as well. Reminded that in spite of the bad choices that we make there is nothing we could do to make God no longer love us.
Another thing I do is pray for my children. I pray that I will love them the way God loves them. I pray that they will love others even those who are mean to them. I pray that I will be a good role model for them. That’s the hard one. I have to remind myself that the little copies of myself are watching every single thing I do. So every time I judge and can’t forgive myself, they are watching me. I have to teach myself to accept God’s love and grace for what it is, free. If my children see that I readily accept God’s forgiveness and love it will be easier for them to receive it and put it into practice.
And lastly, I lean on other parents. It’s easy to try to compare your family to the families around you. They all look so perfect on the outside. The reality is that every family is struggling. And it really takes a village to raise our children. Not only do those parents help me remember that it’s all going to be okay, but they help to encourage and lift up my kids. And I get to do that for them.
So, when my kids are doing that thing (whatever it was) for the tenth time, or when they come home from school after going to the Principal’s office, or when they are throwing a fit because they couldn’t wear a skirt that day I am reminded of this:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38)
I pray that no child, whether mine or another, will ever think that God’s love isn’t free.
What do you most want your children to know about God?