Do You Need It?
Mothers have a strategic role in allowing the gospel to shape their home by expecting that we are always in need of God’s grace. Do you need God’s grace? Or do you have what it takes to multitask your busy routine? Do you need God’s grace? Or have you been “down this road before” with your husband, and your conflict will sort itself out in time? Do you need God’s grace? Or do you just need Google? Do you need God’s grace? Or do you pretty much have this motherhood gig in the bag?
If we want to give grace to our children, then first we must be willing to receive it ourselves from God.
In the midst of endless possibilities for the “we always” of our homes, there is one expectation that we are certain to meet every day, whether or not we are conscious of it: we always need God’s grace.
As one hymn writer wrote, “All the fitness he requireth is to feel your need of him.”1 Grace is the most important thing for us to keep in mind as we shape the expectations of our home. Our children need to grow up knowing, “We always trust God because he’s willing and able to help us,” and, “We always praise God because he is our most valuable treasure.” And we need to get up every morning knowing, “I always trust God because he’s willing and able to help me.”
The gospel should shape the way we shape our home through our traditions. Does this mean that we ought to do catechisms with our children? Does this mean that we need to be more intentional about how we celebrate religious holidays? Perhaps. These are matters of personal preference.
The gospel, however, is not a matter of personal preference; it is news that is a matter of spiritual life and death. The gospel can shape our home as we mothers realize that we will not always meet the standards of excellence that we desire. If we want to give grace to our children, then we must be willing to receive it first from God. We tend to wallow in shame or scoff in cynicism over our inability to keep our hands out of the proverbial cookie dough. At some point, we will fail, and sometimes we will fall hard. Then we must boast in the gospel, because in it God mercifully gives us Christ to be our valued treasure. Things like “mommy guilt” cannot crush us because Christ was crushed on the cross in our stead. Jesus is our consistency; he fulfilled God’s highest expectations of perfection, and in him all the promises of God find their Yes (2 Cor. 1:20). In him we find mercy in our time of need—which is always.
One way to teach our children about our need for God’s grace in Christ is to appropriately confess our sin to them. Ask the Lord for wisdom concerning this, and pray he would give you humility to ask forgiveness of your children when you need to do so. This is a challenge for me, as I frequently choose to minimize the offense of my sin or justify it by blaming my circumstances. It grieves me to consider how I’ve blamed my children’s sin for my sinful response to them. We all always need grace.
Sometimes my children get into what I call a “sin stampede,” where one child sets off another one, and then suddenly all three of them are squabbling in a frenzy. In those moments I wonder to myself, “Why? What would make you think that this-or-that would be the best response to her snatching your baby unicorn?”
God has been gracious to give me great clarity for the reasons for these sin stampedes: my children are sinners because they’re related to me. We’re all sinners who have inherited our sinful nature from our first parents, Adam and Eve. Even if I lassoed my kids together so they could settle their dispute over whose baby unicorn it really is, they would come out arguing over whose lasso it is.
I’m no different from my children. Dealing with annoyances and each other’s sin is a part of daily life, but we can choose to respond to them in a way that honors God. I am prone to outbursts of extreme frustration. This is a big issue for me, and it says something about how I view God’s sovereign goodness. It also impacts my kids.
One time the washing-machine motor burned out. This was a big deal for our big family, with lots of houseguests. Because I feel like the world revolves around me, I became very agitated by the inconvenience of a washing-machine drum that no longer agitated. I fumed from the laundry room, “Are you kidding me?” I may or may not have forcefully dropped the sopping wet towels onto the floor in a huff and did this exasperated scream through my gritted teeth.
My kids heard my tantrum and came running. When I saw their eyes widen with fear, the Holy Spirit made me aware of my sin. My heart was at once grieved by sin and overjoyed by my Rescuer, and I repented publicly. By God’s grace I took the opportunity to remind the kids (and myself) of God’s mercy to save people who think the world revolves around them, when the world exists for him instead. How good is our God to use ordinary moments to sanctify us!
We always need grace. Being forgiven of our sin upon being born again in Christ Jesus by faith through grace is just the beginning. Salvation, in short, means being united to Christ. And even though we continue to sin and are tempted every day to sin, Jesus, our Great High Priest, stands willing and able to come to our aid. We can confidently place all our trust in Jesus—he is able! Our children will take notice when we treasure Jesus in the midst of our temptations to sin. By God’s grace, our example of faith will testify that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8)—always.