Catching trains, parenting and the gospel

I needed to get the train, but that involved getting two little girls in the car. For me, the pressing deadline of the half-hourly train service was front and central in my mind. I needed to get on the train. So I needed to get my family in the car.

“Get in the car L – daddy needs to catch a train.” Cue writhing on the floor and screams of ‘no’. Then my wife wisely encourages me to deal with the other child. The one already captured in a car seat. Perhaps creating compliance by simply carrying a car seat is more your line.

And she in turn begins to woo my older daughter. I find it hard to capture in words her approach – but she brightly encourages L and focuses on the positive outcomes from her perspective – e.g. getting home to a delicious lunch of pesto pasta.

We did catch the train. No children were harmed in the production of this blog post. But as I reflected on what had just happened and on my parenting skills, or lack of them, my mind turned to the gospel.

In demanding compliance and focusing on performance my approach could be summarised as one of law. Law is needed but tends to highlight the fact that we can’t (or won’t) keep it. Over time it can be crushing unless we meet grace face to face and delight in the one who keeps the law (and takes the punishment) on our behalf.

My lovely wife on the other hand seemed to encapsulate grace. Her wooing of a potentially disobedient child recalls how Our Heavenly Father deals so gently with us. Not shouting punishment and penalty (though my daughter knows from past experience that this is an inevitable part of the consequences of disobedience). But gently encouraging and wooing – her love so much clearer to a child than mine might be.

I’m not pitting law and grace against each other. We need both and the one shows us our need of the other. But those of us who understand and teach grace can so easily lose sight of it in the daily grind.

So I thank God for my wife and pray that I might learn from her example. And I thank God for His amazing patience with me – no stranger to writhing on the floor and screaming ‘no’ (in a metaphorical sense you understand!) – and for the fact that He forgives me when I get it wrong. And, incidentally, I tuck in to a delicious tub of pesto pasta on the train…

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