Parents, here’s what God has called you to: He has called you to be His first responders in the lives of your children. The fireman who willingly runs into a burning building or the EMT who runs up the stairs to assist a man who has just had a heart attack is on a mission of mercy. Being a first responder is always motivated by the combination of an awareness of need and compassionate desire to help.
You are God’s first responders, called to run in with help when your child is in danger because of burning desire or an attack of temptation. That first responder is not there to lecture, judge, or condemn, but to provide the rescue that is needed but that the person cannot give to himself. First responders willingly expend their time and energy day after day on missions of mercy.
God calls us as parents to live with the heart of a first responder, ready to run toward difficulty to provide, rescue, protect, help, and heal. You have not been called to be a bystander or a critic, but to be an agent of rescue. First responders don’t take the needs of others personally, and they don’t get mad that their day has been interrupted. They know what they are trained to do, and they are ready and willing to do it each time the need arises.
So it is with us as parents; every day that you have with your children will provide you with another set of opportunities to go out on another mission of mercy. Every day you will be called into action to meet needs that your children can’t meet on their own. Yes, parenting really is a lifelong mission of mercy, so let’s consider what that looks like.
Look for every opportunity to shower your children with grace. Remember that the law of God has the power to expose the sin in your child’s heart and the law is a wonderful guide for your child’s living, but it has no power at all to rescue, transform, or deliver your child. As a parent you have to daily resist asking the law to do what only grace is able to produce.
So you have not only been called to introduce the law to your children, but to be a constant model of God’s grace in their life as well. Grant them the grace of compassion, the grace of tenderness, the grace of acceptance, the grace of loving wisdom, the grace of tender love, the grace of kind instruction, the grace of gentle discipline, the grace of perseverance, and the grace of fresh starts and new beginnings. And as you do these things, remember that grace is not about calling wrong right, because if wrong were right grace would not be needed. No, grace moves toward wrong, not to condemn, but to rescue, restore, help, and forgive.
Be careful to help your children see the heart behind the behavior. You must never forget that the mission of mercy you are on as you parent your children does not target just their behavior, but what forms and shapes their behavior: the heart. Anytime anyone is helped to see his heart, and in seeing his heart, to own his need, he is experiencing God’s mercy. Asking your child what he was thinking and feeling, what he was wanting, or what he was seeking to accomplish gets him to examine his heart even for a brief moment. As you do this over and over again, day after day, your child grows in heart awareness. And his growing heart awareness gives the Holy Spirit an opportunity to work conviction into his heart and a desire for help and change.
Be patiently committed to process. You have to work to remind yourself that the mission of mercy you’ve been sent on by God is seldom an event and almost always an extended process. You won’t have your first heart conversation with your son or daughter and have them say, “Mom, I get it. I have sin in my heart and my heart is ruled by things that shouldn’t rule it and I need rescue and forgiveness. Where can I find the Redeemer?” That just won’t happen. God has called you to a process of many mini-moments of insight that lead to many mini-moments of change. You must be patiently willing to have similar heart conversations again and again, praying each time that God would do in the heart of your son or daughter what you could never do.
Point your kids every day to Jesus. Because the only true hope and help for your child is found in the person, work, presence, and grace of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, you must introduce your children to Him early in their lives and look for opportunities every day to talk about His wisdom, power, sovereignty, love, and grace. Talk about why it was necessary for Jesus to live the life He lived, die the death He died, and rise again conquering death. Talk about how Jesus purchased their acceptance with God because they could never earn it on their own. Talk about how Jesus delivers them from sin, because they could never escape it on their own. Talk of how, if they come to Him for help, He will never turn them away. Talk about how much you need to grace of Jesus every day.
Every time you discipline or correct your children, talk about their spiritual need and how it is met by the person and work of Jesus. Don’t let a day go by without your children somehow, someway hearting the beautiful truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ once again. The mission of mercy you’ve been sent on as a parent has the gospel at its center. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the ultimate rescue mission.
God has called you to be an essential part of His mission of rescue of the children He has given you. But that call is not just about the mission that He has sent you on, but also about the fact that He has gone with you. He doesn’t ask you to do what you can’t do, and His is eternally willing to do what only He can do. So He blesses you with His presence, power, wisdom, and grace. He faithfully parents you, so that by His faithful grace you can faithfully parent your children.
In every moment of parenting, the wise heavenly Father is working on everybody in the room. You are blessed to be chosen to go on the mission of missions, and you are blessed with His grace so that every day your parenting would be dyed with the most powerful force of change in the universe: mercy.
Content taken from Parenting by Paul David Tripp, ©2016. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.
Paul David Tripp talks honestly about parenting children with the love, wisdom, and mercy that only God can provide on a recent FamilyLife Today® broadcast. And his book, Parenting, presents us with a big-picture view of God’s plan for us as parents: that we need more than the latest parenting strategy or list of techniques. Rather, we need the rescuing grace of God—grace that has the power to shape how we view everything we do as parents.