Oops! Have I Been Parenting on Purpose?

Isaiah 53:5 But he (Jesus) was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

It was an ordinary morning.  I sat at the kitchen table wrapped in the contentment of a quiet morning enjoying the peace of a meal shared with just one other family member.  This is a rare occurrence in a family of six.  As I savored my oatmeal and Clara (5) gingerly dipped her pancake in syrup, her voice pierced the silence.  "Mommy, what happens to my punishment after I tell Jesus I'm sorry?" 

I was taken aback by this inquiry.  As usual, quirky little Clara had found a question my other children had yet to ask me.  "What exactly do you mean, Sweetie?", I returned.  I was playing for time in an attempt to give my brain time to catch up with hers.

"Well, I think after I tell Jesus I'm sorry that my punishment goes off of me and on to Him."  In a profound yet simple manner, Clara had succinctly grasped the essence of the gospel.  A collective thirty-six years into child rearing and the process of disciplining my children had just taken on an entirely new significance.

Today I am studying Matthew 11.  This passage opens with John the Baptist sending his followers to Jesus to inquire if Jesus is indeed the long-awaited Messiah.  Jesus chooses not to answer the question, but rather directs them to the displays of His deity.  Perhaps the greatest miracle that Jesus performs is the transformation of lives.  Deep in Clara's heart He is calling her into relationship with Him.  He is illuminating the teaching she is receiving at home and in church to make the gospel real and apparent to her.

The 11th chapter of Matthew closes with words of great comfort and hope.  "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my toke is easy, and my burden is light." (Verses 28-30)  Clara can not yet even read scripture, but God is making this passage a reality in her life.  She is understanding the connection between our sin and the freedom found in relationship with Jesus.  This connection is being forged in her life through purposeful parenting.

I don't know about you but there are days I tire of meting out punishments on my kids.  Child training sometimes feels like an endless cycle of disobey - consequence - momentary reformation - disobey.  How exciting is it to realize that it is that very same exhausting cycle that is drawing my daughter's heart to Jesus?  Purposeful parenting isn't about producing "perfect" children who never mess up but rather children who recognize their need for the saving power of Christ and the joy of living in relationship with Him.

If you back up just a few verse before Jesus calls the burdened to rest, He says, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children."  (Verse 25)  In the end, Jesus must reveal Himself to our children but along the way He uses the vehicle of parent's holding their children accountable. 

Jesus, no doubt I will spend the remainder of today correcting behaviors and guiding decisions.  Today You've made me aware that this is an exciting privilege of cooperating with You in the task of wooing my children to You.  Today I will parent with energy and purpose as I remember the greater purpose behind every opportunity for discipline.

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