We sat at her kitchen table, morning sunlight streaming in through the windows, children creating Play-doh meals at the little table nearby. She and her husband were leaders in our church, and I remember sitting on the edge of my chair, nervous in the presence of someone so much farther along than me (in both life and faith).
My kids were 4 and 3 and 1, and her six were much older. All hers were accomplished and bright and kind. And wise and encouraging, just like their mom. I watched how she treated them, and I saw how hers treated mine, and I wanted to learn from her.
My questions tumbled forth — all of the stored-up how-tos and when-tos and what-ifs of early motherhood. She listened carefully, leaning forward, full of grace with each answer. But of all she said that day, I’ve always remembered one sentence. “Jill,” she said, “as you raise them, you daily act as if it’s all dependent on your training, but in the end, you realize it’s all dependent on God’s kind grace.”
In all the years since
Years have passed since that day. She and her family moved far away. My three are now the age hers were then. And yet I still run her sentence through my mind. “Jill,” I say to myself:
“Act as if it’s all by training, and in the end, remember it’s all by grace.”
So I study God’s word to know how to train and guide my children. As His rich truth saturates my thinking, I pray that His rich treasures of guidance will flow forth from my mouth. I have so wanted to parent them as He parents me. (I wrote more on that here.) I work hard at trying to be the kind of parent God would have me be — treating each situation as seriously as if it’s all dependent on my training.
But I blow it. Often. Over and over.
I forget to minister to hearts and instead I snap with words that shut down communication. I serve, but become petty and irritable if not thanked.
In those moments, the second half of her sentence acts as a balm to my guilty mommy-conscience. For if the eternal health of my children depends entirely on my consistent skill (which I don’t have much of even after all these years!) then my poor children are doomed. Here’s the life-giving balm I remember as I cry to God for mercy:
In the end, it’s all by grace.
God, in His rich mercy, overrides my mistakes (both the intentional and unintentional) and does for my children what I could never do. He holds them and keeps them and leads them in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. He delights to show grace to the undeserving (me) and to those raised by undeserving me (my children).
He’s good like that.
So dear moms and dads, work hard to obey the Lord in all your child-rearing decisions. On mundane days and on days of pain-filled trial. Act as if it all depends on your training. But as each day draws to a close, remember this all-important phrase:
In the end, it’s all by His grace.