When I began the parenting journey, I knew that it would be tough. I knew that my husband and I would be responsible to teach right from wrong and good from bad. But, I imagined that good, consistent parenting would produce good, obedient children. My prayers were centered on my kids growing up – under our good parenting – loving Christ and his gospel.
But, I didn’t bargain on my own sinfulness.
One morning, when my then almost four-year-old son wet his bed again, I spoke harshly in my impatience. My two older girls had had the dry-at-night thing wrapped up by the time they were two and a half. Why couldn’t he get it right?
I will never forget the innocent face that looked up at me from under a mop of tousled hair, or the penetrating eyes and the sweet little voice that said, “Mommy, don’t be cross with me. I’m still learning.”
My impatience flushed away in an instant. I gathered all his soft sweetness into my arms and agreed, “Yes, you are still learning. Mommy was wrong. Please forgive me?”
Some time later, I reflected how the sage words of my three-year-old boy unlocked the very essence of what it means to be a parent. Those parenting manuals with their conflicting advice and fail-safe strategies forget the ultimate truth. Mastery is not a 5-step program. Neither is obedience. The truth is that the steps to ultimate obedience takes a lifetime. One sanctifying step at a time.
If this is true for me, why should it be any different for my children?
It was around this time that the truth of sanctification through parenting began to crystallise in my mind. For too long, I had worked hard at getting the right behavior from my kids, succumbing to impatience when they failed again and again. My focus was entirely on their sanctification. But, then, that little voice echoing in my memory reminded me: they’re still learning. Each time they fail is another opportunity for me to mirror His truth and grace. Each time they make mistakes, it’s a chance for me to exercise the fruit of the Spirit. Each time they sin, it’s an opening to point to the saving power of the Cross. Each and every time that I get to actively parent, I also get the opportunity to experience the Lord’s sanctifying work in my own life.
Some days, those opportunities are grabbed with both hands and I rejoice in being able to serve the gospel in my interaction with the children. Other days, my sinfulness overtakes. My impatient response or lazy attitude overcomes. Those days, my kids get to witness that I, too, am fallen. I, too, need a Saviour. And just like them, I need to ask for forgiveness and seek restoration.
Knowing this has unlocked a sense of peace. I no longer feel unbearably weighed down by the burden of responsibility. I know that not only has the Lord already sanctified us at the Cross, but He continues to sanctify and grow us through our mistakes: both ours and our children’s. Like a butterfly from a cocoon, our lives here are a struggle, but the glorious metamorphosis of our heavenly selves awaits. It is a gift that He has already given.
So, these days, my prayer is that our kids will grow up loving Christ and serving the gospel because of and in spite of our parenting.
Taryn Hayes loves that she gets to live in the shadow of one of the new 7 Natural Wonders of the World: Table Mountain. Since the age of four, she has called Cape Town, South Africa her home. It is here where she came to love Jesus at the age of six and meet her loving husband, Craig, at the age of 15. These days, she is in the thick of raising four diverse and wonderful children. Homeschooling her kids is a large focus of her day-time hours, but by night, Taryn likes to write. Her first published youth novel is Seekers of the Lost Boy, about a 12-year-old homeschooled boy, Simon. He discovers a mystery message-in-a-bottle and finds himself catapulted into an incredible adventure.