The Power of Grace at Work in Selfless Parenting

When I was a teenager, I was kind of a punk. I didn’t consider others feelings over my own. Essentially, I needed Jesus. But I did not fully understand Christ’s great love for a sinner like me and I didn’t think I needed anyone but myself.

Yet, in God’s sovereignty, He kept whispering, through actions of others, specifically those of my parents, that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

My parents, through their actions, showed me the love of Christ by dying daily. This incarnated Christ to me in a tangible, visible way.


My Parents’ Displayed Christ’s Pursuit and Kindness

One time I drove two hours away for senior night to an amusement park and lied to my parents about my whereabouts. Through grace inspired events, I was caught. My parents, upon researching, only knew that I was somewhere in this city. This occurred before everyone carried around cell phones, so they got into their car and drove the entire way to find me.

When I was found, I will always remember the look on my father’s face. He was hurt but he did not shame me. He cared so much that he drove a painful distance to find me. Then he drove me home while listening to me and my heart. He forgave me. And he disciplined me. It reminds me of the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. I was lost and my father came far and at great expense to find me. This was an example of the dying love of Christ displayed in action.

My Parents’ Displayed Christ’s Patience and Discipline

Again, I was rotten. My parents went out of town for some event, entrusting me to take care of our home. I decided to throw a small house party which quickly turned out of control. People stole things; including a special class ring my mother could not replace. Someone pepper sprayed our pet bird and someone broke our flag pole because the thought of climbing it to put a watermelon on top seemed smart. Again, shame. Yet, when my parents found out, they disciplined me, helped me work through the police reports, forgave and loved me anyway. Loving me came at a great cost. It reminds me of the prodigal son in Luke 15 who insulted his father, lived selfishly but later realized it was the Father that he needed; not the world.

God Used My Parents Actions to Show Me A Tangible Means of Christ’s Love

I wish I could say these were the only poor choices I made, but they were not. However, though outwardly I did not show it, my heart softened by each dying act of love toward me. God used these things to start softening my hardened heart. These tangible acts of Christ-like love, drove me to Christ. My parents’ persistence in love toward me did something impactful. I can only think it is because it is “the kindness of the Lord that is to bring repentance” (Romans 2:4). This was displayed through real life examples toward me through my parents.

Looking Ahead

Now, I am a parent. I often find myself frustrated with the actions of my children when they are difficult. Yet, when I remember the experience I had with my own parents it helps me desire to be a better parent. When I remember Christ and His unconditional dying love for me, while I was still a sinner, I want to love my children like that.

The heart is a tricky thing, it is deceptive and we cannot understand it, as Jeremiah 17 tells us. As I parent my children now, in the knowledge of what Christ has done, I can display that same dying love without shame. I can discipline in love. I must remember that He loves my children more than I do. He is working out a perfect plan for their lives. Only God can make a stone heart flesh. Only God can bring dead things to life.

My parents did their best to love me well and show me Christ but it is only Christ who could change me. The faithful actions of loving-kindness and longsuffering displayed, through my parent’s actions, helped me to see Christ in a tangible way. The remembrance of this helps me to be encouraged now as I parent.

Some of us have difficult children who continually chose defiance. But, as parents, our main objective is to train them up in the instruction of the Lord.

This is how we glorify God. We are temporary stewards of them for a short time. This is our act of worship. Persist in doing what is right and in the end we will reap a harvest. We cannot guarantee another’s behavior will change, but we can do our job faithfully before the Lord and by His grace, it can change someone’s life. God used the actions of my parents to change me, and for that I am forever grateful. I pray some of us will have that same experience as we learn to truly trust Him on this journey. You are not alone. Let’s keep walking this together while trusting God with the results.

Angela Parsley is a certified biblical counselor who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with her husband, Tony, and their three children. They are members of Concord Baptist Church. Angela writes and reviews books at her blog, Refresh My Soul. You can follow her on Twitter.