We laid there for a long time that night.
My sweet 5-year-old son and me.
It had been a day. As parents, we have all had them. Days when we let the stresses of our job and the worries of our own anxious hearts couple with our child’s frustration and misbehavior. It never makes for a good combination.
It had been a day of tears and tantrums, poor choices and frustration, selfishness and defiance, and the inevitable consequences that followed.
We laid there together on his bed that night, equally tired, equally exhausted, and both emotionally drained.
There were things I wish I had done differently and things my son wishes he had differently. Yet there we were, curled together, both in desperate need of grace.
I tried to leave his room that night, only to be stopped by his sweet, tired voice, “mommy, please stay and cuddle and talk for a while.”
He didn’t have to ask me twice.
I laid there, holding this small little person in my arms—with tears streaming down—knowing that all these recent moments of discipline were forming and cultivating my son’s soul and character forever.
We talked about making smarter choices and made plans for a better tomorrow.
We talked about tools we could use to handle similar situations in the future.
We navigated consequences.
And we prayed.
I believe in respect and good manners.
I believe in holiness and high standards.
I believe in telling the truth and sharing.
I believe that discipline my child is evidence of how much I love him.
I love him enough to tell him no.
I love him enough to train him.
I love him enough to equip him.
I love him enough to call him to something higher.
I love him enough to explain to him the “why” behind the expectations I have for him.
You see, I don’t want my child to do what I say just ‘because I said so.’ (While I have told him this before and I am sure I will do it again).
I want him to understand goodness and joy and the abundant life found in Christ, not just because I told him about it, but because he has tasted it himself and seen that it is good.
I don’t want simple obedience, void of thought, just to please me.
I want him to be a person of compassion, joy, grace, integrity, righteousness, and love, not because his mommy said so, but because he has experienced the fullness of a life soaked in Christ and hungers and thirsts for it day after day.
I know that throughout his lifetime, I will take on many roles as his mommy. But these days I feel most like a protector. I have been entrusted with an irreplaceable gift and I must handle his heart with grace and care.
If I understand anything about the Gospel it’s that Christ’s love is so overwhelming, pure, whole, and all-consuming that it brings about the most abundant life we could ever dream.
Even in our unfaithfulness, God is faithful.
Even in our hatred, God is love.
Even in our wandering, God pursues.
Even in our doubt, God is constant.
Even in our irritability, God is patient.
Even in our cruelty, God is kind.
Even in our anger, God forgives.
Even when we fall down, God picks us back up again.
We were made by love, through love, and for love.
Throughout my life, my parents have given me a clear understanding of God’s unconditional love by how they have loved me. I am a grown woman with a family of my own, but I am still flourishing because of the safety, strength, rest, and guidance of my parents’ unconditional love for me. The image of God as a parent makes perfect sense to me because of my parent’s love for me. I pray that my child (and children to come) will always know how much God loves them because of how I love them.
I have memories of breaking my parents’ heart a few times. Yet the memories that stick out are what if felt like to still be held, loved, and welcomed in spite of my mistakes. I remember what it felt like to find rest in simply knowing I was home. Sure, I had messed up. Sure, there were consequences and loving discipline. But I never once questioned where I was wanted and where I belonged. I pray this to be true for my children as well.
I welcomed the discipline of my parents because I trusted their heart for me.
We obey God, not out of fear, but out of love.
Parenting has become this incredible experience in which I encounter God in a deeper way than I have ever known.
Parenting makes me vulnerable.
I need my son to know I am human, that I make mistakes.
I need him to know that I will fail him—there will probably be one day that I will break his heart.
And I want him to see me for who I am.
An imperfect human.
And so that night I laid there with my son.
Overwhelmed and tired.
With no words left to be said.
God's grace poured over both of us.
And together we found rest in God’s abounding love.
We wouldn't let this day beat us up. For his mercies are new every morning.
And to me, that picture is the gospel, redemption and restoration, one holy, sacred moment at a time.
May God keep teaching me how to love the precious gift of my son with everything I have. And may my sweet boy know and experience the abounding grace God pours out every moment he is in my arms.