I assume that every surface of my house is currently home to at least three different strands of flu. For nearly a week, every member of the household has had their own version of this bug. The dishes have piled up as we have been forced to focus on only the essential elements for survival. Paul Tripp pins me to the board when he writes, “Many of you are exhausted, discourage, and frustrated.” Those three words accurately identify how I far too often feel and think about my role as a parent.
This month, I invite you to join me on a journey through Tripp’s recent book “Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles that can Radically Change Your Family”. Every month I will be sharing some of the big ideas found in each chapter. While this blog will be mainly directed towards those currently in the throes of raising children, I believe the principles will be beneficial to adults of all ages and in every stage of life. Whether it is interacting with our own children, our nieces and nephews, our grandchildren, our students, or the kids running around church, Tripp’s words are instructive for us all. He writes, “This book is meant to give you vision, motivation, renewed strength, and the rest of heart that every parent needs.”
If you are anything like me, you feel like much of your life is lived in survival mode. You’re just trying to make it through the week as a father, a husband, an employee. And you never feel like you’re quite excelling at any of them.
Tripp identifies the cause of much of the frustration and exhaustion around parenting as a wrong heart disposition towards our children. We are caught between seeing our role as parent as owner vs. seeing our role as ambassador. If our role is owner, our children are our own. We look to them for our identity, we believe it is our job to turn them into something, we work to make sure they meet those measurements to communicate to the world that we are successful parents, and in all of this our children become our trophies we use to convince the world that we have value.
Conversely, if our role is ambassador, we find our identity in Christ and see ourselves as representatives of God’s love to our children; we realize it is God’s grace that causes our children to become who they could be; success is measured by our availability as a faithful tool in God’s hands and not accomplished goals; and we acknowledge that our children, born into sin, will at times result in public misunderstandings and embarrassment.
We will likely always find ourselves in the tension between parenting as owners and ambassadors. But, as we work through this book, it is my hope that we would catch a glimpse of the freedom that can be ours when we begin to believe we are ambassadors of God to our children and not their owner. All of this can be encapsulated in a word we know well. That word is grace. Seeing the grace of God to us and showing grace to our children. We are left with a challenge from Tripp, “How about considering a new and better way: the way of grace?”.