Thursday, May 6, 2010

Parenting by Grace: D. L. Moody

There is a story that Paul Moody tells about his father, Reverend Dwight Moody. Paul unwittingly stayed up past his bedtime and his father curtly ordered him to bed. Here are some excerpts from the story:

"This time I retreated immediately and in tears, for it was an almost unheard-of thing that he should speak with such directness or give an order unaccompanied by a smile. But I had barely gotten into my little bed before he was kneeling beside it in tears and seeking my forgiveness for having spoken so harshly. He never, he said, intended to speak crossly to one of his children."

Later, Paul spoke of the impact his father's kindness had on him:

"Half a century must have passed since then and while it is not the earliest of my recollections I think it is the most vivid, and I can still see that room in the twilight and that large bearded figure with the great shoulders bowed above me, and hear the broken voice and the tenderness in it. I like best to think of him that way. Before then and after I saw him holding the attention of thousands of people, but asking the forgiveness of his unconsciously disobedient little boy for having spoken harshly seemed to me then and seems now a finer and a greater thing, and to it I owe more than I owe to any of his sermons. For to this I am indebted for an understanding of the meaning of the Fatherhood of God, and a belief in the love of God had its beginnings that night in my childish mind."

D. L. Moody's other son, William, said this about his father: 
"In his home, grace was the ruling principle and not law, and the sorest punishment of a child was the sense that the father's loving heart had been grieved by waywardness or folly."

Parenting through the eyes of grace communicates peace and hope to our children. Grace does not turn a blind eye on sin. But it offers forgiveness through Christ. Grace makes Christ central, law makes "me" central; it focuses on my behavior.

I will teach my son what God requires in His law. But I will not raise him to be hopelessly introspective by punishing him when he does not meet those requirements. None of us can follow God's law in ourselves. I dare anyone to try. It will only lead need to intense discouragement. I will teach my son that he is a sinner, but I will simultaneously point him to Christ as his only hope. It is not my job to make sure he feels so ashamed as to see his need for a Savior; for the Holy Spirit is in the world to convict the world...and that includes my son.

Like D.L. Moody's children saw through his parenting, I want my little boy to see in his daddy and I the grace towards him that God so freely bestows on us, his parents. I want him to boldly approach the throne of his Father God because Jesus paid his sin-debt, and he has no need to feel shame or suffer.

Grace is terrifying. Raising my son through the eyes of grace is equally terrifying. But I want my son to freely trust and walk with His heavenly Father. I want him to choose right, not because he fears punishment, but because His heavenly Father loves him dearly. 

Every night as I lay my son in bed, I place my hands on his sleeping body, and ask God to reveal Himself to him. I ask God to convict him of his sins. I ask God to woo him. Raising my son through grace forces me to trust God...and how wonderful it is to rest in the love of my heavenly Father for my tender little boy!


  1. Carissa, I totally agree with you about how raising children to obey God because of His love, and not because of fear of punishment is going to be trying. so many Christian methods of evangelism are based on the opposite: "choose God to escape hell" mentality. It will certainly be going against the popular Christian tide.

  2. Monica, yes, we are definitely going against the popular tide. I do want to be honest with Aydon: his choice truly is trusting Christ or eternal separation and suffering. Parenting through grace, though, means that I do not need to make him suffer to understand this choice. In evangelism, we tell people the truth, but we don't make them suffer in order to understand it; we let the Holy Spirit convict them and work in their hearts. Already, I have been telling Aydon about God: He is everywhere, He made everything, He knows what we are thinking all the time, He died for our sins... :-) Thanks for your insightful comment.