When my copy of Love-Powered Parenting: Loving Your Kids the Way Jesus Loves You showed up in the mail, I was intrigued but doubtful. After all, don’t I already put enough pressure on myself when it comes to being a parent? Now I’m about to read a book reminding me that my standard of parenting is Jesus Himself? It’s a tall order, which is probably why the book sat on my coffee table for a good two weeks before I ever cracked it open.
Nonetheless, a funny thing happened. This little blue book made a difference in my parenting before I ever made it to page one. Sitting on the coffee table, those small white words on the book cover seemed printed in neon, “Loving Your Kids the Way Jesus Loves You.”
That week, my teenage son and I wound up in a confrontation over a situation with details I can’t remember. What I do remember is being stressed out about something unrelated to the issue at hand and reacting to him more harshly than I should have. I lashed out. He went to his room. Exasperated, I flopped my worn-out self on the couch and spied the book on the coffee table reminding me to ask that age-old question: What would Jesus do?
Confident he wouldn’t have acted like the fool I just had, I took a breath, cursed the book in my still-irritated thoughts, and took my sorry self into my son’s room for an apology and a discussion that (surprise!) resulted in a fruitful, productive, loving conversation in which he shared with me things I would have never dreamed to discuss with my parents as a teenager. “Okay, so this Jesus stuff really works,” I thought. “Maybe I should get around to actually reading the book.”
Several days later, my kids and I had been out running errands. Snow covered the driveway and the treetops, and I shivered as I let us into the house, only to discover that a child who-shall-remain-nameless (“It was him! No! It was her!”) absent-mindedly left our sliding door wide open and it had stayed that way for the last twelve hours. Since our previous electric bill nearly caused a coronary when I opened it, I absolutely lost my mind imagining what this would do to the next month’s bill, not to mention how many happy little critters made their way into my warm, toasty bed to get out of the cold weather. I unleashed a nagging monologue full of careless words, my own pulsing veins bulging with wrath.
Once again, the book was there, its seemingly luminous subtitle blinking through my mind like a strip-joint advertisement, illuminating the ugliness behind this failed situation. “Loving Your Kids the Way Jesus Loves You.” Jesus, 2. Mom, 0. All right, all right. Time to read the blasted book for a real reminder of what a hopeless parent I am in the light of He Who is Most Loving and Gentle. I flipped it open and braced myself for the bad-mommy lashing I most certainly deserved.
The truth is, the book captured me from the introduction, not because it was so full of wisdom and righteousness, but because it was so full of understanding and grace. The authors, Tom & Chaundel Holladay, have been there. They get it. While they’ve probably never berated their children for leaving a sliding door open, they might’ve wanted to, and that’s clear in this text. I figured out quickly I could learn something from these people who are quick to admit their failures but also quick to offer a pearl of wisdom on how they were able to do it better the next time, with God’s grace and Christ’s example.
The book is designed to be read over the course of 30 days – one bite sized piece at a time. This makes it manageable, something most busy parents can appreciate. I found myself reading ahead, spending more time meditating on areas I needed extra help with, and relishing the “Verse to Remember” and “Action to Take” parts of each daily section.
I took pages and pages of notes throughout my time in this book, marking words of wisdom such as:
“Some of the hardest work you’ll ever do as a parent may be the work of making the choice to encourage – the work of resisting the temptation to react in anger of choosing words that encourage change instead of permissively accepting the status quo, of helping your children see themselves and their circumstances through the eyes of God’s sanctifying love.” (pg. 105)
“You are not programming your children for obedience; you are part of God’s plan for growing them toward Christ-likeness.” (pg. 166)
I appreciated the book’s reminder to let Jesus love through us and not doing it in our own strength, and to nurture our own spiritual childlikeness so that we can relate to our children. I view this as a great parenting resource, one step at a time, toward first being able to fully experience God’s graceful, unconditional love so we can next spill over with it onto our kids. It helped affirm for me that parenting is a call upon my life and stopping other worthy pursuits to look tenderly into the eyes of my child and speak grace into their lives is valid and worthy and lasting.
I can honestly tell you that, though my parenting tactics are still far from perfect, there is freedom in the redemption that grace brings and with the help of this book, I am finding space to pause before I react and time to get eye-to-eye with my kids while I speak into their hearts and let them come to me unashamed, the way Jesus taught us to.