From Generation to Generation:
From Grace to Grace; By Grace In Grace
Parenting is by the grace of God. “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” (Psa 127:3 NIV) Other translations use gift. Heritage, inheritance and gift all point to God as the Giver. While reward seems like it is something earned, it really means God’s favor.
I thank God for my 3 daughters. Being married to an only son in a traditional Chinese family, I have learned that God wants me to be thankful for what I have, not dwelling on what I do not have. When people praise my children for their behavior, school achievements and what they see externally in church, I am gratefully reminded of God’s grace and mercy in my life – 3 precious gifts He entrusted to me. Whatever good people see in my children, it is to God’s credit and glory alone!
What people do not see is just as important. It is even more important that I am accountable to God who I am, what I say and do as a mother. For this responsibility I need a greater portion of God’s grace. So let me share my stories: lessons as a child and as a parent in this journey called parenting.
First, I cannot teach what I have not learned. I cannot give what I do not have. When I say eating vegetables is healthy, do they see that I eat them? If I want my children to read the Bible, I must read the Bible. If I hope for them to take care of me when I am old, I show them how I take care of my elderly parents and in-laws. How am I as a daughter-in-law foretells what kind of daughters-in-law my children will be. When I teach my children to follow Jesus, do I deny myself, carry my cross and follow Jesus? My walk validates my talk. Many things are more caught than taught. Children are very observant. They have eyes and ears that see and hear beyond our verbal lectures.
Heritage from the Lord and heritage from my parents… what do I want to pass on to my children? My mother models for me the importance of prayer in the life of a Christian. I have to admit I sorely need to catch up on this. Mama prayed for family, friends and relatives everyday. I truly believe that who I am and what I am today, I owe much to her intercession at God’s throne of grace. Do I live a life of dependence on God in prayer? What is my first resource when trials come? Mom as my first teacher also taught me the importance of being a diligent student. And so I did the same when my children were young. I tutored and helped them in their studies. Then came a time when I passed on the responsibilities to Hannah, then to Abigail. They not only learned to be responsible for their studies, they are to be good examples to Mimi. Whatever their academic achievements are by God’s grace. Yet, they must be responsible to do their part.
Practice makes perfect. Habits are formed when we are young. It is important to train them early. When our children are young, we give them more rules and set boundaries for them to follow. We teach them the value of respect and obedience. They are under our authority just as we are under God’s authority. But as they grow older, we need to let go and let them take responsibilities for their own actions making them accountable to God. As I took care of my parents and in-laws, I let my children participate in taking care of them as well. Andrew and I had Abigail buy medicines for grandpa and grandma. Today, she buys meds for us. I sometimes let Hannah bring food to guakong and guama (Hokkien for maternal grandparents). Even Mimi had a part – she could convince grandma to eat when no one else can.
Following Jesus is a lifelong process; it is moment by moment and day by day. It needs persistence and perseverance even when the way is hard. Parenting is not a one-time one-step journey. When I fail, I learn from my failures. When I am wrong, I apologize to my children. The first time was not easy – swallowing my pride needs practice. I need to imitate Jesus in humility. Humility is about knowing when I am proud. It is so true that I do not have humility when I think I have it. I know I am proud when I am not teachable, when I think I know it all. How do I teach my children to be teachable if I am not teachable?
Yes, we need to teach children while they are young. But it is not because you cannot teach old dogs new tricks. A Hokkien proverb: ‘吃到老, 学到老’ (Literally, Grow till old, learn till old.) I learned from my father the lesson on aging with grace. I want to be like him – not grouchy or grumpy but easily pleased; not bitter but peacefully content. Papa blessed me as he appreciated the food I brought – the paella, the kutsinta (Filipino delicacy, brown rice cake), the mamon (Filipino sponge cake): they are all好吃 (delicious). He models graciousness when he says thank you to his caregiver. In all my life I never heard dad curse or say bad words. In fact, he often praised people. I pray that when I get old, my children will be blessed with the same legacy.
From generation to generation, parenting is from grace to grace, by grace in grace following the great teacher, Jesus. As my parents followed Jesus in parenting me, I pray my children follow me as I follow Jesus.