Sarah Rice is a mother of three and pastor's wife living in North Alabama. She holds a Masters of Arts in Biblical Counseling from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and writes regularly at babystepstobounds.com. She counsels, teaches and disciples women.
As the long days of summer wear on, I find myself quick to lose patience with my three boys. Summer is really fun. I love having all three boys home all the time—sleeping later on lazy mornings with nowhere to be. I love having time to swim, play with friends, travel, read and take them to lots of new places.
But summer has its challenges too.
With more opportunities to love one another come more opportunities to rub each other wrong . . . to irritate each other . . . to sin against each other. Constant family togetherness displays and highlights four human beings’ shortcomings; selfishness, pride, anger, fear, manipulation, sibling rivalry.
In the summertime I see my children’s individual weaknesses and sinful hearts. I also see my own.
I tend to want to fix my kids with my power. I want to say and do all the things that will produce the desired effect in their hearts and behavior; to smooth out their rough edges with solid biblical parenting; to mend their flaws and melt their fears so that I can feel really good about my kind, obedient and happy kids.
If none of this “good parenting” works, I’ll likely completely lose patience. I’ll let my own irritation, anxiety and fear take over, and in a final effort yell:
“WHY CAN YOU NOT DO (INSERT COMMAND)?!?! WHAT IS SO HARD ABOUT (INSERT OBEDIENCE)?!?! JUST STOP IT! NOW!!!!!!”
Patience is Better than Power
There are times when I’m reading God’s word and a light bulb of understanding flashes on in my mind; a connection is made for the first time. The lamp of God’s word shines deep within, and his Spirit pricks me with conviction as the true condition of my heart is revealed.
Patience is better than power, and controlling one’s emotions than capturing a city. Proverbs 16:32
When I read these words one day, I felt the Lord teaching my heart:
Your children are not your projects, Sarah. They are gifts from my hand. They are blessings to steward, not burdens to shoulder. You will not give account for how you changed or healed or fixed them. That is not a job you can even do. It’s mine alone. You will give account for how you loved them. And my love is patient. It is not irritable. It bears all things, believes all things and hopes all things. My love never ends. You can be faithful and rest in grace as you trust me with the hearts of your boys.
Loving my kids with a Christ-like love doesn’t mean ignoring their sin and struggles with an anything goes mentality. The proverbs also repeatedly command parents to discipline their children in love:
Discipline your son while there is hope; don’t set your heart on being the cause of his death. Proverbs 19:18
Loving my kids with a Christ-like love means being faithful to raise them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4). But being faithful means being patient with the process, not trying to force results I have no power to produce.
Parenting through the Gospel
When the apostle Paul told the Ephesian believers to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, he was telling them to raise their children in the gospel.
Paul’s Gentile audience (Greek believers) would have raised their children in the instruction of the philosophers. The Jews would have raised their children in the instruction of the Law. But Paul is calling Christ’s followers to something new: gospel-centered parenting.
The good news of the gospel is that “we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope” (Tim Keller).
Loving my kids patiently, raising them in the instruction and discipline of the Lord, means giving them the good news of grace as I rest in that grace myself.
Jesus Christ came to this world and lived the perfect, pure, and righteous life that my boys and I could never live (2 Cor 5:21). He died a horrific death in our place (Isa 53:10-11). He triumphed over death when he rose from the grave, and he lives to offer us forgiveness through his righteousness (Eph 2:1-7). He transforms us through his Spirit when we look to him (2 Cor 3:18).
When I’m placing my confidence in this gospel, I can stop grasping for power and love my boys with a patience that endures the rough sinful edges because that is how Jesus loves me. I can discipline and teach in love rather than irritation and fear, extending the good news of grace that has been extended to me. I can parent in a way that hopes all things because my hope is grounded in the finished work of good, merciful and mighty Savior, not the way my kids behave on any particular day.
My life can exhibit the truth that patience is better than power because God’s patient grace has changed me . . . and his patient grace will change them too.