Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Grace, not Condemnation

I'm not even going to mention the months and months that have passed since I last wrote. I'm pretending that my last update was yesterday. So just ignore along with me, okay?
I'm reading through Ephesians and was cruising along until - BAM - I hit chapter 4. I've been using the SOAP method, albeit very informally, which goes like this:
1. Write out the Scripture (I usually do small chunks of a couple of verses instead of whole passages).
2. Observe what is being said (Usually I write a paraphrase of what I just read).
3. Apply what you've read to your life. Easy enough -- I write a couple of ways to put into practice what I'm reading.
4. Pray. Ask God to help you be diligent in living what you believe, specifically on what you've read today.
I love Paul. He's very straightforward and doesn't beat around the bush. I got to verse 2 of Ephesians 4 and it says, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love (NIV)." Now, I'm the first to admit that I'm not humble, gentle, OR patient. But maybe I was fooling myself a little. I mean, sure, I'm humble in speech, gentle to puppies, and patient with people who drive the speed limit. But you know who I'm not humble, gentle, or patient with? My kids. My husband. The people I should be nicest to because, you know, I LOVE them. Shawn and I are also reading The Meaning of Marriage in Sunday School and a lot of that ties in with this.
So a few weeks pass and I get to verse 29. Again, I'm struck that I need to Change. With a capital C. "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
All of this leads me to this: my parenting style has got to change. I need to focus on grace, not condemnation. I could give you 500 excuses for why I sometimes get impatient and yell at my children: I'm tired, I need a break after 16 straight hours alone with them, they dawdle -- fill in the blank, really. But see how I'm shifting blame and responsibility from myself? That is inexcusable from my kids -- why do I allow myself more leeway? I shouldn't.
I'm constantly at odds with my oldest. I think she's just like me, which leads to a butting of heads. I am way too hard on her and I feel guilty a lot. Grace. It's what she needs from me, and it's what we get from God. You'd think that someone like me who has received oodles and oodles of grace from my Father could manage to show a little to my daughter.
This is my constant prayer: that God would help me be gentle, patient, and full of words that build my kids up, not attitudes that focus on what they're doing wrong.
And my marriage: same issues, different approach. Why is it so hard to be kind to the person I love the most? It makes me think of that old DC Talk song, In the Light.
"I am the king of excuses, I've got one for every selfish thing I do. What's going on inside of me? I despise my own behavior. This only serves to confirm my suspicion that I'm still a man in need of a Savior."
Thankfully, I have a Savior that loves me and extends me grace when I need it. I NEED Jesus. Life is impossible without Him. I screw up a million times a day and He always forgives me, always gives me another chance. Another day to show His grace and love to my children. Thank God.

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