Engineering Grace: Dictator or Disciple Maker
I once engineered bridges. On a day-to-day basis I administered the supervision of construction. Long before a concrete pile was hammered deep, I scrutinized the designer’s plan for assembly. As work ensued, I inspected, documented and measured the progress. When an error occurred I arranged for the resolution and restitution.
As the manager, my counsel included foresight, insight and sometimes hindsight. I did not however dictate the day’s events. The builder did.
Today I engineer grace.
I oversee the formation of the character of two little girls. It begins with me knowing well the plan the designer, God, laid out. In Dr. Tim Kimmel’s book Raising Kids Who Turn Out Right he compiled his research of the Bible and summarized God’s design for instilling His character in our children.
With an effective plan, I set out to parent knowing I only have a few short years to supervise the construction of something as infinitely more complex than a cast-in-place reverse curve concrete box girder bridge. Every day is unique–“No pressure.”
Here is THE thing. Grace and freedom are tantamount.
A grace-filled parent offers vision, awareness, understanding, and appreciation for the goodness of God so that the child will want to absorb and incorporate His virtues for themselves.
Everyday life is full of trouble. Fortunately, Jesus said “Take heart, I have overcome the world (Matthew 16:33).”
As I show my children the intricacies of Jesus’ character and teaching, we discover how to overcome trouble.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” ― Helen Keller
It’s not uncommon in my/our spiritual brevity to dictate instead of disciple. Jesus however did not dictate to His disciples. He graciously extended foresight, insight and often hindsight direction through parables, adventurous experiences and direct counsel.
Additionally, the training of His followers did include grace-filled discipline, reconciliation and restoration.
- Consider how Jesus gently restores Peter after he denies Him three times (John 21:15-25).
- Consider how Jesus cunningly counsels the woman at the well (John 4:1-26).
- Consider how Jesus gracefully admonishes the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11).
- Consider how Jesus tactfully consoles Thomas’ doubt (John 20:24-29).
I must leave space for God’s grace to have its way in the heart of my children. I want to lovingly oversee this transaction. Dictatorship will likely produce an absence of God’s attendance in their adult life.
Just as God gives me the freedom to work out my salvation (Philippians 2:12, 1:6), I give my children that same liberty. Parenting is not about producing perfect behavior, although holiness is the chief aim. Parenting is best accomplished when we foster an encounter with God in everyday life through His son Jesus.
And like the Apostle Paul, it is by the grace of God we become who we are.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect—1 Corinthians 15:10a.
Written by Edy Sutherland
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