LETTERS TO THE NEW DAD
Raise a Grace Giver
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Tim. 2:1
Dear Son of my heart, whom I dearly love, who makes me laugh, and whom I grow to admire more every day (What can I say? Sometimes moms get mushy),
I have labored much over this letter. Written for hours, then erased it all. I think it is because the lessons of receiving, and extending, grace is of such vital importance that I want to get it right.
Not just for Max – but for myself as well. Grace is a life-long lesson, and I don’t ever want to stop learning how to do it better.
Grace – His kindness, His favor, His forgiveness – for us – but through Christ. And in the receiving of it, He overwhelms us with waves of acceptance that we do not deserve – but He delights in giving anyway.
In turn, He asks that we, too, because of our indescribable gift in Christ, allow Him to extend grace as well, through us.
His kindness, His forgiveness, flowing through us, that others might be drawn to Him. His grace – it rushes past our selfishness like a river, courses through the freedom in our hearts, and pours Life-giving water straight into the heart of others.
Let me start by saying – You do forgiveness well.
So I know that you will teach Max well, and teach him early.
A mentor of mine used to say that we all have three basic desires:
To be unconditionally loved.
To be wholly understood.
To be completely forgiven.
And, while we desire these for ourselves, it can be extremely difficult to turn around and bestow these precious gifts, onto someone who has caused us pain – even if it is someone we love.
Particularly if it is someone we love. Because the damage done by loved ones intrudes into our hearts.
As much as we hate it for him – Max will, in his lifetime, experience pain, and he will inflict pain.
So, teach him these two necessary life skills:
How to ask for grace.
How to give grace.
Son, you are a gracious man. God has given you a keen conscience and a clear voice in your convictions. If you are wrong – you say you are wrong. If you have done wrong – you confess and face it.
Teach Max that honor comes, not from never having made mistakes, but from admitting them when he does, and doing his part to make things right.
Teach him that his points of confession can turn out to be his points of redemption.
Be diligent in teaching him how to apologize when he stumbles. Pray for God to develop a sensitive heart in him – one that accepts responsibility and hungers after restoration.
Teach him sincerity – it is key for an apology.
It must be honest and it must be repentant, because a fake apology can be detected a mile away.
We can tell when someone is still making excuses for their wrongs. We see it in their trivializing of the pain they caused. We see it in their, “I’m sorry, but…” Or “I’m sorry you…”
Make sure Max knows the word, “but” has no business being in an apology. “I’m sorry, BUT…” is not an apology – it is a rationalization. And “I’m sorry you…” is just an accusation.
They just pretend sorrow. They accept no responsibility.
“I’m sorry but – I was provoked.”
“I’m sorry but – they shouldn’t have made me mad.”
“I’m sorry you misunderstood.”
“I’m sorry you got confused and didn’t take it the right way.”
“But” and “You,” they just pull the scab off the wound. They deepen the injury. They are bullies. They are walls to hide behind.
We have all been there. We have all used “buts” to excuse ourselves.
So teach Max that a sincere request for grace uses, “I”:
“I’m sorry I hurt you.”
“I’m sorry I got angry.”
Don’t be a parent, Jess, who is afraid to say, “I’m sorry.” Your willingness to apologize, when you are wrong, will make an indelible impression on Max. Despite our best efforts, we parents make huge mistakes – hurtful mistakes – mistakes that can alter the way our children view themselves.
Sometimes – because it wasn’t our intent – we rationalize hurtful words and actions. But a parent’s intention is not as important as the child’s perception. We need to stand ready to apologize for pain we inflict, whether we meant it to be painful or not.
Be that kind of parent, Jess. If you are, you will learn humility, and, you will raise a child who not only learns to give and receive grace – but who also has a deep respect for his father.
“I’m so sorry, I did not mean to hurt you. Can you forgive me?” Two sentences that could change the future of your child, if you use them.
Your heart, Son, is so kind and sensitive – I know you will teach Max well.
Teach him that Grace can surprise us by the depth of His healing.
I pray Max always has the strength of character to accept – not just his responsibility in the pain – but also God’s grace that covers it.
l pray Truth gives Max the strength to stand – so that Grace can give him the courage to kneel.
There is no way for any of us to grow up without making mistakes. When you were younger, you apologized, one day, in a way that I will never forget.
“Mom,” you said with tears in your eyes, “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. Mom, I’m pretty sure I’m going to make more mistakes – so please – don’t give up on me…actually, I know you won’t give up on me.”
I had no words for a minute, because I felt the Lord speak deep in my spirit, “Ahh…an honest confession…admission of failure…reassurance of grace.” I felt His satisfaction in your repentance.
I realized your words were the prayer of every believer’s heart. The acceptance of forgiveness already given and our need for it. And the assurance that Grace never gives up on us. I have used that same apology many times…”Lord, I’m so sorry, as long as I’m alive I will make mistakes – thank You for not giving up on me.”
Grace – where we are wholly complete when we are most broken.
True repentance – sorry for the sin itself, sorrier still for the pain it caused others. Sorriest most for the grieving that it caused Grace. I pray this kind of heart for Max.
And on the flip side – a man who has received grace – gives grace – from the overflow of grace he has received.
Sounds easier than it is. Sounds like a piece of cake and a no-brainer.
Let me tell you it is not. Extending grace can be some of the most painful work Max will ever do.
It is not for the weak. It’ll sap your strength, confuse your mind, and leave you wondering who is going to pay for all of the hurt heaped on you. Someone needs to – shouldn’t it be the one who caused it?
Oh, we know what we are supposed to do. It’s just that forgiveness asks too much of us — impossible things – impractical, unfeasible things – out of us and in us.
And sometimes our flesh wants no part in forgiveness.
So tell Max what we so often forget…It’s God who works out the forgiveness in us.
The burden of forgiveness is not on Max’s shoulders, but the burden of surrender is.
“Be kind to one another…forgive each other,
just as God in Christ has also forgiven you.”
The kind of forgiveness God asks of us – cannot be done by us. It is done through Christ – and in Christ.
When we don’t want to forgive – Christ says, “Give it to Me.”
When we are convinced the pain will never go away – Christ says, “Trust Me to heal you.”
Grace requires us to find a different source than ourselves – because flesh cannot give out what it does not possess.
So the heart has to seek surrender – instead of vengeance – and there’s only one place safe enough – in Him.
Grace – it’s ours for the asking – but, it’s also ours for the giving.
But, the only way we can be grace-givers is to be Grace-accepters. If we have not received grace – how could we possibly give grace?
And He asks us to surrender not just the person who hurt us — but all the damage that was inflicted as well.
Grace – Forgiveness – it’s not a free pass and it’s not pretending like nothing happened. It’s not hoping time makes it better – and it’s definitely not a feeling, because sometimes the pain lasts years after we have forgiven someone.
It’s a choice to come to Grace with hands and heart open. It’s a choice to voice our anger, our devastation and our desperation, and it’s a choice to let Him do what He wants with it. And sometimes, when the gash is deep, we have to choose it every day.
So teach Max grace by giving him grace in his failures.
And when his heart has been pierced, teach him to place his hurt into the only hands with the power to heal – nail pierced hands – that prove He understands what it’s like to forgive people who “know not what they do.” Teach Max that.
Teach him about Grace, through grace. In Grace’s grasp is the sweetest place Max will ever be.
“Scars,” Grace says, “Show Me yours – I’ll show you Mine.”
With all my love and thankfulness for your forgiveness of the mistakes we made as parents,