Saturday, April 10, 2010

Parenting with Grace -- Seized by Temptation

The house was full of guests, and it was quiet time. Short on space, I had then 3 year old Jordan sit on my bed with a few books, hoping she would take a short nap. Beside the bed, in a crib was Emma, peacefully sleeping, for now. Emma normally napped for two hours, but today, thanks to Jordan, Emma's nap lasted 30 minutes. I never did get the full story as to how Emma woke, but certainly Jordan was the instigator. Not what I needed on a busy day full of company!

I was not happy with Jordan that day. I was frustrated and overwhelmed. I felt bad for Emma knowing that she was going to have a difficult evening with lack of a good nap. But what would have been appropriate punishment for the offense? I actually opted for no punishment. In my heart, I knew that the circumstances had made it impossible for Jordan to obey. I had not worked through all the logic in my mind, but I knew I could not punish.

The following day, I Corinthians 10:13 came to my mind: No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

I then understood the reason my heart was uneasy with punishing Jordan. She had been tempted beyond what she could bear. And she had been tempted by me! Yes it was a full house of people, yes it was a situation in which the best scenario could not be found. But I should have taken an extra few minutes to think through how Jordan would do being so close to Emma during quiet time. I had placed Jordan in an impossible situation.

But wait, isn't life full of impossibilities? Don't children need to be taught to obey no matter what? Doesn't God give us impossible assignments such as "Be Holy"? Yes, but that is where grace steps in.

When God gives us impossible tasks, his grace, his presence is available to fill the gap between what we can do and what he expects. This gets a little deep in theology, but follow me. When God commands us to be holy, we strive for it, fail at it, then God's grace through the death and imparted righteousness of Jesus Christ fills in the gap for us. We are not holy, but God's grace, Jesus Christ in us, makes us essentially holy. And what about the other impossibilities of life? God's grace is present in those, too. For when we are weak, then he is strong.

God's grace is present in temptations as well. First, he says that he will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. He graciously only allows into our lives what he knows we are strong enough to resist (strong meaning our human efforts + his strength). Second, when we are tempted, he provides as way out!

In Jordan's quiet time disobedience, there was no way out. Not only had I placed her in an impossible situation, but then I left the house to run errands (don't worry, other adults were still present!). Had I been home, I would have continued to check in on Jordan, give her gentle instruction and direction, and possibly removed her from the room when I realized the impossibility of resisting the temptation of waking Emma. My presence would have been her saving grace. But my presence was absent.

God's grace, God's presence, is never absent for those who love him. I am not a perfect parent, I will never be able to be perfectly present, perfectly gracious, and perfectly wise. I will continue to place my children in situations where they will be seized by temptation. I will continue to forget to graciously provide a way out. But what I can do is take a few extra minutes when a disobedience occurs and see if a lack of grace has created the problem.

Imagine that - a lack of grace on my part can actually cause disobedience! I still call it disobedience, because the expectation was not met. But instead of punishment, it is time for training. Go sit in a chair together, talk about the situation and the expectation and talk about how to resist temptation.

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