How to parent in freedom – even amidst your failures

Our three older boys share one bedroom. They’ve done this for years, by choice. As long and as hard as the day can be between three boys who span only five years in age, they still love being together at the end of the day, and for that I’m incredibly grateful. It sure did simplify the bedtime routine in their early years. Not to mention that it gave us a ready and waiting bedroom when our little guy was born almost seven years later.

Each evening, once all three boys are snuggled into their beds, we aim to read the Bible together. The key word here is aim. And in the spirit of keeping it real, let me assure you it does not happen every night. Let me also assure you, we don’t do this because we fancy ourselves as a good and holy family. No. We do it because we know how desperately we need to daily draw close to the Good News of our good and holy God at the end of our crazy days.

On one particular evening it was Owen’s turn to choose the Bible story. He opened up his Jesus Storybook Bible and decided to go all the way back to the beginning. He chose the creation story. We read about how God created everything out of nothing, and we read how God simply spoke, and whatever He said happened.

When Owen was done reading, I asked, “Wow, boys! If God can do that, is there anything He can’t do?”

To my surprise my son Brennan exclaimed, “Yeah, Mom. There is something He can’t do!”

I’m not gonna lie, I was a little worried. How have we gotten this wrong? I wondered.

But before the train went completely off the tracks, Brennan continued. “Mom, God can’t stop loving us! That’s what He can’t do!”

From the mouths of babes, right?

When we are in Christ, God can’t stop loving us! The real us. The rebellious us. The unfaithful us. But, believing that can be so hard! Why? Well, for starters, there are simply too many parts of us that feel too unlovable. I know you know what I’m talking about. We know the mess that lies beneath our well-manicured outsides. Also, let’s not negate the power of the persistent message our culture bombards us with: “A little more perfect = a little more lovable.” Everywhere we turn, covert and overt messages assure us that our lovability is riding on our performance.

Read this: For the mom who doesn’t have time to read her bible

Then we go a step further and apply that equation to our relationship with our heavenly Father, and we think, The better I can be for God, the more I will be loved and accepted by God.

In other words, we forget (or doubt) what the Word of God says about the love of God. Or maybe it’s that we simply assume we are exempt from God’s promises in passages such as these:

For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. 

(Psalm 103:11–13 NLT)

Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, and so in him I put my hope. 

(Lamentations 3:21–24 GNT)

I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself! 

(Jeremiah 31:3 NLT)

And these three verses only scratch the surface. God couldn’t be clearer. His love is not reliant on our lovability. Because of Jesus, it remains unfailing amidst all of our failures.

If you’re anything like me, however, you might read those verses and say with your mouth, “I know God will always love me.” But the way you live your life—ceaselessly trying harder to be a “better Christian” so you can earn or keep His love—tells a different story.

God created us to thrive in the unwavering assurance of His love, which is given to us because of Jesus. But instead of thriving in God’s love, most of us are doing something radically different. We are striving. Striving for something that is actually already all ours!

Coming to believe that God can’t stop loving you will bring the greatest transformation your heart has ever known. And this transformation will—it can’t not—overflow into your parenting.  Living in the freedom of the unconditional love of God empowers us to parent with the unconditional love of God.

This post originally appeared on JeannieCunnion.com and was republished with permission.

Now read this: Why your first responsibility as a parent is not your child

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