A few years ago I was commiserating about my children. Do you ever have those moments? I mean, they are wonderful, I love them, I couldn’t imagine life with out them. If I am honest as a parent, I see their areas of growth.
I had been working on them very deliberately on admitting mistakes, owning their actions and apologising (with eye contact, full admission, the whole nine yards!). After several months, I actually felt like they were going backwards. Lots of blame, mumbled “I’m sorries” and don’t even hope for eye contact… that seemed just too much to ask.
I was wallowing in my parenting failure, adjusting my expectations on what success could look like. Finally, as a last resort I took it to God (will I ever learn?!).
God’s response to my frustration was swift and in the form of a question. “How do they know what this is supposed to look like?”.
I was just as swift and prepared to answer! “Well, I have explained it to them a hundred times, I’m quick to jump in and gently guide… I even give them a script to repeat after me! They just won’t do it! They’ve obviously got a genetic disorder that prevents them from saying ‘I’m sorry’ and admitting mistakes!”
I let it sink in. I couldn’t think of the last time I apologised to them. This wasn’t because there was a shortage of things to apologise for. But it became even bigger. When was the last time I confessed a sin to them about anything? When was the last time, in our nightly prayer times, I asked for them to pray for me about an area of growth I was working on? When was the last time I told them, “I had a bad day today, I hurt someone with my words”.
This wasn’t about me burdening my kids with my adult problems. But it was about showing to them the level of humility, transparency and ownership that real relationships require.
How would they know how to walk in humility and weakness if they had never actually seen it in action? Especially from their own parents.
The clincher was this. Telling them, with my words, that there is grace for sin and mistakes is not enough. Why? Because Mom is demonstrating with her facade of perfection that there really isn’t grace to be broken and imperfect.
I now realise a new truth. Often the most powerful demonstration that there is grace in our house is not Mom saying, “You’re forgiven”, it is Mom saying “I need forgiveness”.
Here are 4 things I did over the next months and years to reverse course in our house:
- I asked the Holy Spirit to convict me of when I sinned against my children. When that happened I immediately went to them, got on their level, looked them in the eye, admitted what I had done, and asked for their forgiveness. This was not always easy. Often they had also sinned against me and I wanted to focus on that!
I asked for them to pray for me at night. Each night we read the Bible and pray. I now occasionally say something like this, “Boys, I’ve really been struggling with coveting… wanting what others have for myself. Will you please pray for me?” (Their eyes got as big as saucers the first time I said this which was encouraging and convicting at the same time)
When we read the Bible we often stop and talk about what is happening in the passage. If there is a bad or good behaviour to be learned from I will sometimes say something like this: “I want to obey God like Abraham did in that story. I’m going to pray and ask God to give me the courage to do that.”
In general conversation I try to be more open about mistakes and failures. Not a big heavy or all the time. Simply saying, “I had an interesting day, I said something that hurt a friends feelings and felt terrible. It was hard but I eventually went to them and made it right.” Even better, find opportunities to apologise to my husband in their full hearing and sight. It’s as simple as saying, “I’m sorry, babe, that tone of voice sounded rude, forgive me.”
What are your ideas on how to create a home of vulnerability and grace?