Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Story of John Law and John Grace

"For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!""      -Romans 8:15

When I first shared with my mom some of the things we were striving to do as we raised Aydon, she said, "That reminds me of the story your dad always tells about John Law and John Grace." I have been thinking a lot about this story lately...I will share the reason after I tell the story:

There once was a lonely, sad, and dejected woman. She was married to a man named John Law. John was harsh; he had a lot of standards for his wife. He demanded that she keep their house perfectly neat and tidy. Every day, she would wake up and carefully make the bed, sweep the floor and cook breakfast. And every day, her perfect husband would find flaws in her work. If there was a wrinkle in the bed, he pointed it out to her. If the eggs were not cooked perfectly, he gave them back to her and demanded that she make a fresh batch. It was not that John Law's standards were flawed: they were perfect! It was just so discouraging because she could never live up to those standards. She woke every morning feeling hopeless about herself; knowing that she would never be perfect.

One day, John Law suffered a heart attack and died. A few months later, the former Mrs. Law met another man named John Grace, whom she married soon after. The first morning after their wedding, this woman awoke and began the tiresome task of straightening out the house and cooking breakfast. Her new husband greeted her with a hug. Glancing at the bed, he said, "Oh, look, there's a wrinkle in the blanket." Sighing, the sad woman began walking to the bed to straighten the wrinkle, but was surprised by another hug from her new husband accompanied by, "Honey, you look tired, let me fix that for you." The rest of this first day of wedded life was bliss for the tired woman, for though John Grace had as high of standards as John Law, he did not demand for her to reach those standards; rather, he reached them for her. He showered love and compassion on her. He was her helper, there by her side, fixing the messes that she made.

Imagine the transformation in Mrs. Grace, formerly Mrs. Law, after several months of Mr. Grace's kindness!

This story illustrates the incredible gift of grace that we believers have been given, as the verse at the beginning of my post so aptly states.

If we, as believing Christian parents, are given this incredible gift of grace from God in the person of Christ, who reached all of God's perfect standards for us, then how is it that most Christian parents are urged to raise their children under the law? The New Testament makes it very clear that when we strive to reach God's standard on our own, we will always fail: that is why Christ died for us; that is why we have the Holy Spirit to lead and guide and empower us daily. I am astonished that Christian parents, having been given a grace-system under which to operate, demand that their little children, who are still developing and growing, reach a certain standard of perfection, or else. If little two-year-old Johny does not pick up his toys immediately upon being asked, he is punished. If he dumps water on the floor (probably as some sort of two-year-old experiment), he is shamed. I have heard some Christian parents rationalize this treatment of their children by saying, "We are training him," or, "The punishment relieves his guilt; we are doing him a favor," or, "He knew better!"

Graceful parenting means that we have high standards for our children. It also means that we are there to help our children accomplish what we ask. We do not want to lead them into hopelessness. So, if I want my little guy to pick up his toys, I get down on the floor with him on eye level, and kindly tell him that he has a few more minutes to play, and then we will have to pick up the toys. And then, when it is time, I actually help him clean up. If he is angry and does not want to, I give him some time and space, and when he is ready, we pick up the toys. The standard never changes, the means to reaching the standard does. This is raising our children under grace. It is far from permissive. It breeds in our children a spirit of hope, and a knowledge of love. It nurtures our children, teaches them what it means to listen to their parents as we work side by side with them.

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