“Mommy, does Jesus live in your heart?” That’s the question a precious seven-year-old girl asked her mom after they’d finished their nighttime prayers.
The mom stroked her daughter’s hair, looked tenderly into her daughter’s eyes, and assured her, “He sure does, sweetie. Jesus has been in my heart since I was a young child like you.”
“Mommy,” her daughter continued with childlike curiosity, “what does Jesus do in there?”
Don’t you just love how literal our kids can be? This sweet little girl is trying to envision Jesus just chillin’ out inside her mom’s heart.
Her mom replied, “The same thing He’s doing in your heart, honey. He’s making me more like Him.”
Like the mother said to her daughter, it is Jesus—by grace, through the power of the Holy Spirit—who makes us more like Him. And yet, if you’re anything like me, you have believed the lie that it is ALL up to you to produce (key word being produce) character in your kid’s lives.
I believed that the only way my children would be thankful, respectful, kind, loving, honest adults was if I made sure I modeled all the right behavior and made all the right charts and had all the right jellybean obedience jars and followed all the right advice. Maybe you can relate.
For the relief our hearts crave, let’s turn to God’s Word and push back this pressure with truth.
I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. . . . I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
There is a lot packed into these four verses and I don’t want us to miss a word of it.
First, we are given the assurance that it is God—not us—who began a good work within our kids.
Second, it is God, not us, who will continue that work in their lives.
Third, He will not give up on them even when they deserve to be given up on. He will see His work through until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
The righteous character we so desperately want to see in their lives will ultimately be the fruit of their salvation, not our hard work and handmade charts. It will be produced by Jesus Christ, not by our persistence.
This doesn’t mean that our efforts are unimportant. Of course, they’re important. But we can’t anchor our hope in them. Part of God’s purpose is to produce character in the lives of His children. And all of this will bring much glory and praise—not to our parenting—but to God!
I can model for my kids the freedom and joy that comes from obeying God’s Word, but I can’t make them want it. I can model life in Christ to the best of my ability, and I can use Scripture to teach my children that God’s law is holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7:12) and that it is perfect, trustworthy, and more precious than gold (Psalm 19:7–10); but righteous character is produced by Jesus.
Now here’s what embracing this truth does. It inclines us to take a good, long look at the significance of our role in our children’s lives in light of God’s sovereignty over their lives. And, hopefully, it ultimately inclines us to surrender the hearts of our kids into the hands of our all-powerful and all-loving God. When we remember God’s sovereignty, we stop wanting to write our child’s story, and we become thankful God never gave us the pen.
We can lay this pressure down, and trust God with the children He’s entrusted to us!
This post originally appeared on The Better Mom and was republished with permission.
Jeannie Cunnion is the author of Parenting the Wholehearted Child and Mom Set Free, and a frequent speaker at women’s conferences and parenting events around the country. Her passion is encouraging women to live in the freedom for which Christ has set us free – a message her own heart needs to be reminded of daily. Jeannie and her husband Mike have four boys who range from teenager to toddler.