Review: Give them Grace

Do you have a baby? Toddler? School-age kid {or a few?} Teenager? Adult children?
Are you expecting? Trying to have a baby? Planning to adopt? Foster?
Are you single and hoping to have children someday? Do you think you will probably never have children?
Are you someone’s child?

Okay, if I’ve described you above, then you should read this book.

Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson is obviously geared towards parenting, but to be honest, this book was a huge challenge and encouragement to me in my own personal walk with God. It is 100% grounded in the Gospel, and while their application is directed towards shepherding the little hearts God has given to us, I know that the lessons they were teaching I needed for my heart as well.

Elyse and Jessica begin their book by disappointing probably every reader when they say that they are not going to give checklists or tactics or strategies to help turn out good little humans. Put this in . . . get this out. In case you are a parent and haven’t noticed, that just is not how it works. Because . . . surprise! . . . we are working with humans here. Humans that God has beautifully created in His image with their own hearts and minds and wills. So there is no formula, there is no checklist to follow.

Beyond that . . . creating good humans is not our end goal. Before you read this book, that might be your goal, but Tullian Tchividjian in the forward aims to set that straight:

Jesus or no Jesus, we just want them to obey, be polite, not curse or look at pornography, get good jobs, marry a nice person, and not get caught up in the really bad stuff.

It may come as a surprise to you, but God wants much more for your children, and you should too. God wants them to get the gospel. And this means that parents are responsible to teach them about the drastic, uncontrollable nature of amazing grace.

In this book, Elyse and Jessica will take you back to the Gospel of grace, to see again and in a new light what the covenant of grace meant for a people who had long been under the rule of law. Take a moment and think, do you run your house by law? Are your kids expected to obey the rules, and have they been conditioned to think that when they obey, you love them more, and when they disobey they need to do penance to re-enter your favor? Don’t be surprised if you find yourself saying yes! This seems to make sense! This seems to be the way it works! But, do you remember why God gave the law to the Israelites? It was to show them that no matter how hard they tried, they simply could not obey. They needed a different answer, and that answer was Jesus.

We have a daily opportunity to point our children to this – this most important story – this Gospel truth – when they disobey. Should there be consequences and should we expect obedience? Should we correct and discipline? Yes, of course! But, ultimately, their obedience does not determine their standing as our child. Our love for them should not be conditioned on their actions. God’s love for us is not conditioned on our actions. Rather, we look at each act of disobedience as an opportunity to remind them that they can never obey perfectly. And you know what? That’s okay! Because Jesus did.  Jesus did, and if you run to Him and trust Him, He will cover you in His perfect obedience.

This is where we ground our parenting – in the glorious truth of the Gospel. From there, Elyse and Jessica walk through some more practical parenting advice: how to think through different kinds of disobedience and how to use the Gospel to train through that disobedience, how to utilize Proverbs and wisdom from the Word in parenting, how to think through situations that we allow or disallow our children to participate in in light of the Gospel, how to pray diligently for our children, and how to rest and trust in God in the midst of disappointment, heartbreak, or seeming failure.

If it wasn’t clear, I would highly recommend this book for everyoneThis book had me constantly looking at my own personal walk with God and whether or not I was grounding my walk in the Gospel. Let me share a few highlights to whet your appetite:

Your children’s salvation doesn’t depend on you any more than your own salvation did. (29)

. . . every human heart is always ever drawn to law. In the same way that iron filings follow a magnet, our hearts chase after rules – not because we ever really obey them but because we think they make life manageable. Rules elevate us to the position of law-giver; they help us avoid the humiliation of prostrating ourselves before a bloody, despicable cross. (81)

Guilt never motivates us to do anything wildly loving. (131)

The Lord isn’t disappointed in you or in your parenting. He isn’t disappointed in your prayers. He doesn’t treat his dear children as ‘disappointments’ whose obedience and failures take him by surprise or shock him. He does not suspend his love until they get their acts back together. He already knows the worst about you (in yourself) and loves and approves you nonetheless (in Christ.) (131-132)

So lean into him. Don’t be afraid that you’ll fail at this. Don’t think he’ll judge you because you don’t say the right words with the right inflection and all the proper theology. Don’t think that he’ll sniff at your requests because your family is such a mess. Be assured that these things will never happen, for one simple reason: the record of our prayer has already been written. The Father hears the perfectly worded, properly believing, and flawlessly theologically correct prayers of his beloved Son when you pray. (140)

we produce sinful children because we are sinners, but God loves sinners. (153)

They really don’t want to give themselves a pass if resting in grace somehow means that they aren’t holding up their part of the bargain. They need grace to believe that there is no bargain, because if there were, they would never be able to uphold their part of it no matter how hard they try. No bargains, no meritorious works, just grace. Remember, parenting is not a covenant of works. (159)

I’ll stop there, because I want you to come back. But this is a good book, and I hope that this post encourages you to pick it up and steep yourself in the beauty of the Gospel.

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