Give them Grace: Parenting and the Gospel

I have told people in the past, “If you think your life changed when you got married, wait until you have kids!” Those of you who have children know that’s true. Life is different in many ways after you have children, particularly because we then need to figure out ‘what do I do now?’

Today I would like to begin a series of posts on the book Give them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus, by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson. This book caught my eye because of its focus on the gospel, the authors’ desire to transcend the typical ‘how-to’ parenting book structure, and because I found it a breath of fresh air on the topic of parenting.

Tullian Tchividjian aptly summarizes the theme of this book in his forward:

[A]ll too often I have (wrongly) concluded that the only way to keep licentious hearts in line is to give more rules. The fact is, however, that the only time licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God’s radical, unconditional acceptance of sinners.

In this book the authors (mother and daughter) instruct that the only hope for our children is Jesus and the transforming power of his grace. The sooner that we see that the foundation for bringing up godly children is not good parenting but our great Savior, the sooner we will work and rest in his power to change our children.

In subsequent posts I will write about each of the chapters, but today I would like to include part of an excellent review of this book from Andy and Jennifer Naselli, which is part of the spring issue of the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

In this review Jennifer Naselli tells about her experience as a first time mother, which she approached with an air of pride and arrogance, thinking that she could do it all right because of all her preparation for parenting. God, through the birth of their daughter, instantly displayed to her what Dave Harvey has written about parenting: “I thought parenting was going to portray my strengths, never realizing that God had ordained it to reveal my weaknesses.” She continues,

At the same time, God was kindly teaching me more about the gospel. I began to see the gospel as central to all of life, not just as “step one” in the Christian life. I began to see my own desire for self justification as idolatrous and robbing God of his glory. I began to understand that I needed God’s grace, too, even though I wasn’t an outwardly rebellious child.
As I grew in this understanding, I also grew uncomfortable with my approach to discipline with my child. By this time, Kara was headed full steam into the terrible two’s. I became dissatisfied with my routine exhortations and exclamations:
• You just need to obey God.
• When you sin, you’re making God sad.
• Good girl!
• You’re pleasing God when you obey like that!
I began to feel that I was instilling self-justification into her heart—the very sin I was finding so pervasive in my own. But I really wanted to help Kara understand from the beginning that God is her final authority and that disobedience is ultimately against him alone. I was stumped and frustrated by this seeming incongruity between what I was learning and what I wanted to be teaching my child.
Then I picked up Give Them Grace. As I read it I kept exclaiming to Andy, “It’s like she is inside my head, answering all of my questions!” I was fascinated and intrigued, but I had to keep putting the book down and mulling over the concepts that were so diametrically opposed to how I was accustomed to thinking about my role as a parent.

As you and I work through this book together your response may be just like Jennifer’s. This book may challenge your thinking on parenting, but in a good way, I hope. So join me as we journey through how we can give God’s grace and experience his grace as parents.

(You can view other posts from this series: Post 2, Post 3, Post 4, Post 5, Post 6)

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