It seems like new parents often have to learn to get balanced, like learning to ride a bicycle — some are comfortable with authority and wobble to the side of being too rules-oriented and need to balance that with more grace and flexibility and others are natural nurturers and wobble to the side of being too permissive and need to balance that with firmness and authority.
One nice thing about getting older is that I find I have so much in common with parents no matter which side they wobbled to early on — in the end caring parents generally are balanced out.
Did you find you “wobbled” a bit to one side or the other in your earliest parenting years? Did you find you overcompensated as you found balance? What ideas helped you find balance? What encouragement do you have for other mothers during the wobbly years?
Last spring, I attended a women’s conference with a really great speaker, Tara Klena Barthel. I was so encouraged how she kept turning back to the Word, directing the conference-goers back to the Word, and pointing again and again to the Word made flesh, Jesus.
Near the end of the last session, Tara spoke on the importance of accepting on another and serving one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. (Again, based upon what Christ has done for us — accepting us and serving us.) She pointed out how easy it is to fall into the “Jesus+Plus” thinking. Theologically, we can slip into the Jesus+Plus my good works, my sound theology, my worship experience. . . Not that we would consciously form our salvific beliefs around such ideas, but that becomes our manner of living.
Relationally, we can fall into “Jesus+Plus” thinking as well. It is so easy for us as people to want to be comfortable with those who are like us. And within the Church this has often become very pronounced. Jesus+Plus likeminded families, breastfeeding mamas, cry-it-out-ers, family bedders. . .
We’ve even seen this cause strife and division in individual congregations. Difficulties in maintaining previously close relationships.
It can be hard to get past the “Jesus+Plus” thinking, both in our daily walk with the Lord as well as in our relationships. Once again, it is time to turn to the Gospel, recognizing that what Christ has done for me is what Christ has done for those who live and think and parent very differently from me.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:7
And so, my brothers and sisters in Christ. . . I’m seeking the Lord. Seeking the Lord to apply the Gospel in my life and in my relationships. In our parenting, I believe that God gave to you your children to raise to the glory of God — just as He gave my children to me. It is in that spirit of unity that we share encouragement, factual information, and our own varied experiences.
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Mothering by Grace is a Christian, attachment parenting message board. Our distinctives include an emphasis on positive discipline, encouraging involvement in local communities and understanding freedom in Christ as a basis for making individual, educated parenting decisions. Our goal is to be both theologically sound and intellectually stimulating.
At this stage in my life, so much of my reading and studying is filtered through the perspective of mothering. This includes my studying of the Bible and theology. I find the deeper I dig into God’s Word, the more light it shines on my life–and how I ought to mother.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
“Brothers. . .” This passage is written to Believers. As parents, God has given us special responsibility towards our children. But they are also our “brothers” and in the Covenant.
Kristen recently wrote,
We went to Ash Wednesday services at the beginning of Lent with Kate at the episcopal church around the corner (we missed liturgy) and when the priest put ashes on her little forehead, it really made an impact on me. As much as I am her mother, I am also her sister in Christ. This has been really helpful to me in thinking through parenting issues. Most Christians wouldn’t serve wine to a fellow Christian who was a recovering alcoholic. Why do they discipline their children and then set them up to do the same things again?
In his commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther clarifies that “caught in sin” is not speaking about doctrinal errors, “but about far lesser sins into which people fall not deliberately, but through weakness.” As our children are learning right from wrong, they will sin. As they are growing through various stages of development, they will have greater or lesser control over their impulses.
Luther goes on to say, “is caught in imply being tricked by the devil or sinful nature.” Sinful nature, temptation, weakness, developmental stages–remembering these sins of our children are part of their weakness helps me respond to them with compassion.
Luther states, “Paul therefore teaches how those who have fallen should be dealt with–namely those who are strong should raise them up and restore them gently.” I don’t always feel “strong” or “spiritual.” Often I feel weak and struggling myself. But it is my responsibility to raise my children and be strong for them. We have no trouble with the idea of parents being a “mama bear” protecting her young child. I also want to be strong spiritually to correct them gently, to be the “mama bear” to help my children when they are struggling with sin.
It’s interesting to note that this passage is immediately proceeded by the admonitions to walk in the Spirit and the list of the fruit of the Spirit– love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These should be on my mind as I restore my children gently.
Luther reinforces the idea of this passage reminding us of “the fatherly and motherly affection that Paul requires of those who have charge over souls.”
What does “restoring gently” look like? Luther explains, “when they see that those persons are sorrowful for their offenses, they should begin to raise them up again, to comfort them, and to mitigate their faults as much as they can—yet through mercy only, which they must set against sin, lest those who have fallen are swallowed up with depression.” And “. . .gently, and not in the zeal of severe justice.”
To be honest, at times I’ve had Christian mothers advocate some child-training approaches that seemed to have more of the “zeal of severe justice” than how Luther describes the Holy Spirit’s correction, “mild and pitiful in forbearing.”
After restoring gently, we are told to “carry each other’s burdens.” I see this, in light of mothering, as an especial entreaty to know our particular children and their particular weaknesses.
One of my sons is insecure around lots of guests–and he has responded in the past by getting very loud, climbing on furniture, and even hitting a guest. I’ve found that to carry his burden means I prepare him beforehand for our guests, and I hold his hand when they arrive, until he is comfortable and calm. Another son is prone to lash out at his brothers when he is angry. Bearing his burden has meant praying with him and for him, helping him recognize when he feels anger rising, and giving him strategies to deal with that anger without hitting. And it has meant letting him know it’s good to come to me and say, “Mommy, I’m angry” so I can help him not sin in his anger.
Also in this encouragement to carry one another’s burdens, it strikes me how wrong it is to follow the child-training technique of placing a child in a situation of temptation–to test him and see whether he can withstand it (or be punished.) This method is encouraged by some for training toddlers and preschoolers, and seems to be very contrary to bearing the burdens of temptation.
Luther also comments on this passage that sometimes in bearing with one another, things need to just be let go–“These people are the ones who are overtaken by sin and have the burdens that Paul commands us to carry. In this case, let us not be rigorous and merciless, but follow the example of Christ, who bears and forbears these burdens. If he does not punish them, though He might do so with justice, much less ought we to do so.”
“And watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. . .” For parents, I see this as a two-fold warning. First, to be gentle, not be angry—the caution here illustrates how very easy it is to slip into being harsh.
And also I see the warning not to be tempted to pride. When we become concerned about appearing to be “good parents” it is easy to slip into correcting harshly, minutely. This is one of the areas in which I struggled a lot, especially when my children were smaller. And especially when we were guests in churches and people’s homes. I felt pressure (from myself even more than others) for my kids to be perfect and “prove” we were worthy to be missionaries. That pressure tempted me both into pride in my children’s good behaviour, as well being overly picky and correcting unnecessarily.
The end of these verses is “in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” As Martin Luther said,
“After Christ had redeemed us, renewed us, and made us his church, he gave us no other law but that of mutual love. To love is not to wish one another well, but to carry one another’s burdens–that is, things that are grievous to us, and that we would not willingly bear. Therefore, Christians (parents!) must have strong shoulders and mighty bones, so they can carry their brother’s weaknesses. . . Love, therefore, is mild, courteous, and patient, not in receiving, but in giving, for it is constrained to wink at many things and to bear them.
thanks to mollie for the pic