I just finished reading I Timothy and started II Timothy in my daily Bible reading, when something hit me: Paul, the author, greets his reader the same way in both books.
“Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (I Tim 1: 4)
“May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.” (II Tim 1:2)
So, you know me – I had to research it. Paul literally uses a similar salutation at the beginning of all of his letters, and he ends them almost the same way. I Timothy and II Timothy end by saying, “Grace be with you all.” In the New Testament Paul blesses his readers with grace 26 times, peace 12 times, and mercy merely twice.
I could make light of it and say it was just a common greeting (which it was) – but I think it is more. I don’t think either Paul, or God the Ultimate Author, meant it as nothing but a flippant salutation. In fact, I would venture to say that because it is mentioned so many times – it is an important truth God wants us to grasp. God wants us to live in and live out His grace and peace.
I’d like to look at what it means to be given grace – as a parent. (In my next blog post, I’ll do the same for peace.)
What is grace?
Simply put – grace is the unmerited favor of God.
Grace is often linked with salvation – salvation being a free gift from God.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Romans 2: 8 – 9)
So often, I stop grace there. God saved me because of His unmerited favor towards me. And that is awesome, and so hard for me to grasp – but it is not the only thing grace does – if it were, Paul would not have needed to tell Christians to have grace – it would have been redundant.
So what does grace mean to me on a day by day basis as a mom?
1) I am a Mom by the grace of God.
Jacob realized this. (Not that he was a mom – but that his children were given to him through grace)
“And when Esau lifted up his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, ‘Who are these with you?’ Jacob said, ‘The children whom God has graciously given your servant.’” (Gen 33: 5)
“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalm 137: 3)
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)
My children are a gift from God to me, given to me not because I did anything to “deserve” them – but because he favored me and wanted to bless me.
2) Grace replaces my pride
My six year old memorized more Bible verses than anyone else in Sunday School; my four year old could sing the Books of the Bible – both Old and New Testiment; and my teenager went on more mission trips than anyone else in youth group – and of course, that is because I am such an awesome mom! Or maybe, I’m not so awesome –My sixteen year old son wore a speedo to the community pool; my five year old ate a stranger’s sock at the McDonald’s playground; and my four year old screamed so loudly at a local restaurant that we were kicked out for the sanity of the other patrons. Being a mom is my greatest pride – and what keeps me humble.
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Cir 12: 7 – 10)
My very loose translation of these verses: To keep me from having a big head – God gave me children who act childish – to keep my pride in check. I pleaded with the Lord to give me kids who always behaved and were better than their peers at everything, but He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast in my parenting – not because what I have done, but because Christ has given me the power I need to parent. I am content with not being the perfect parent, because when I am unable to deal with messy situations (and parenting is messy) – I allow Christ to “deal” through me – and others can see Christ more clearly.
3) There is grace for my failures
I don’t know about you – but I am hardest on myself in the realm of parenting.
I realize the gravity of the task. I realize I am not supposed to feed my child a donut and chocolate milk for breakfast; I realize I am not supposed to yell at my kid when he puts gum in his hair; I realize that I’m not supposed to promise my child I’ll take her to the park – then get so busy I forget. I realize all the things I am supposed to do and don’t; and the things I’m not supposed to do but do. I realize these things – but sometimes/often I fail.
Sometime, somehow, someone told me it is not ok to fail as a parent – ever. So I beat myself up when I do. I image that my kids will grow up and be in some recovery group saying, “Hi, my name is …”
I cannot forgive myself. Literally – I don’t have the power to forgive myself, God is the only one who bestows forgiveness of sins – through grace, His free, undeserved grace.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7)
Christ takes my sins as a parent – forgives me, and exchanges my failures with his lavish favor. How incredible is that.
3) Grace is my Mommy Superpower
My main ministry is to my family. God has called me to raise my kids for His glory. With a job – I may work 20, 40 or even more hours per week – but mothering is a 24/7 job. When I have “one of those days” – when the baby wants to do nothing but nurse, the two year old throws his spaghetti noodles on the wall, and the 5 year old just released the hamster from captivity – I dream of someone pointing at me and saying, “You’re fired!”
When Donald Trump is not around, when I can’t hand off the job to Dad, Grandma, or the sitter – God’s grace will give me everything I need to accomplish the task.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (I Cor 15:10)
“for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)
God’s grace gives me the energy I need to hold and sing lullabies to my colicky baby when I’ve had little to no sleep; to clean the vomit after my child snuck into the pantry and ate the whole bag of Oreos; and to hug my screaming 5 year old when she believes she saw an ant at the grocery store.
Grace is my Mommy Superpower.