Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
“Although we’re Christian parents, it doesn’t necessarily follow that our parenting is essentially Christian. Frequently it’s something else entirely.” With these surprising words from the introduction, Elyse and Jessica—mother-daughter duo extraordinaire—will begin systematically dismantling everything you thought you knew about biblical childrearing. Give Them Grace is very much like the gospel it exalts: by wrecking the methods we’ve gathered as safety nets and then pointing to a Savior who’s infinitely better, we’re offered the chance to step into a new (and dazzling) kind of life.
Some of my favorite quotes include:
Freedom to love and enjoy our children flows out of the knowledge that God saves them in spite of our best efforts, not because of them.
The obvious difference between Paul and us is that Paul bragged about his weakness, and we try to hide it. We militate against it. We think that Teflon-coated, spick-and-span, seamless parenting, producing perfect little children all lined up like the Von Trapp family singers, is the only thing that can possibly glorify God. We’re making Him too small and our desires too big.
Certainly the faith that has empowered the persecuted church for two millennia isn’t as thin and boring as “Say you’re sorry,” “Be nice,” and “Don’t be like them.”
We have taught our children that what God wants from them is morality. We have told them that being good (at least outwardly) is the be-all and end-all of their faith. This isn’t the gospel; we’re not handing down Christianity. We need much less of Veggie Tales and Barney and tons more of the radical, bloody, scandalous message of God made man and crushed by His Father for our sin.
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.
If we continually maintain a strong love of the things that make us proud, make us look good, and prove our worth, then we haven’t really known the love of the Father. Why? Because the love of the Father is so glorious, so rich and beautiful, that these paltry baubles have no power to entice us, at least not for long.
It is only when we are finally freed from those oh-so-constricting straightjackets of self-righteousness that we are able to experience the true comfort and warmth of the robes of His righteousness.
A piece of wisdom that particularly stood out to me was how we as parents are called to missionally engage the culture rather than isolating our families from it. Elyse and Jessica write:
Whether we like it or not, our neighbors know everything there is to know about music, TV, and movies. It is the very language they speak; it informs and shapes all their philosophies and desires. Yes, of course we have a different language, philosophy, and desire. We are different, but our difference should not be because we don’t know who Voldemort is. We’re different because we know the one good story and it has transformed our lives and freed us from the real Voldemort, and our neighbors need to know it.
Raising kids in a way that honors Jesus doesn’t require living in a cave far from the unclean. It actually invites us to move into relationship with the unclean, learning their language and washing their feet with the love of Christ. This creative form of kingdom parenting positions the grace of the gospel to be seen by all—even (and perhaps especially) by the tiny unbelievers in our own homes.
Ten journaling questions inspired by the text:
- What dark mercies have I been fighting against, longing for comfort and strength apart from Christ?
- When am I tempted to believe that real action is in obeying rather than in remembering?
- What encouragement do I need when I face the sin and weakness of my own heart?
- Where can I find ultimate hope as a parent?
- How can I be more aware of the Lord’s work around me than of the failures I see?
- Where do I need the good news that Jesus loves the Pharisee in me? the prodigal in me?
- How can I remember that every time something unexpected happens, it’s God approaching me in love again to show me the glories of the gospel and the beauties of grace?
- When have I noticed that my heart desires to win rather than to be won?
- In which areas do I need to relax into God’s loving embrace?
- How can I partner with my child in the gospel?