I adore beautiful gardens and especially roses. To see an prolific antique rose bush in its glory is amazing. In Vienna, near the Hoffburg Palace and also the summer palace where Marie Antoinette was raised, there are rows and rows of abundantly full rose bushes when in bloom speak of His divine touch and craftsmanship.
However, the grace and beauty of such a garden comes through much cultivation, planning and sacrifice of time. The bushes must be fed with the best of fertilizer, watered constantly to maintain proper growth.
Roses are especially vulnerable to mold and aphids and so the outside forces that would destroy them must be monitored and dealt with constantly. An eye of protection must look for any evidence of such pests. The more quickly the threats are dealt with, the less damage the bushes incur.
In winter the branches are cut back so far as to appear dead, at times seeming to have destroyed the very life inside. Yet, the cutting back and training of the branches, allows the roots to grow deep and provides for a healthier long term plant.
The blooms are the fruit and glory of the cultivation of the plant. Yet, even the blooms are temporary and must be trimmed so that others may grow in their place.
The care of such a garden and particularly of the rose bushes is given because of the love the gardner has for cultivating such beauty. All the acts of cultivating and grooming the garden is that it may grow.
So it is with the discipline of children. Grace-based parenting is not just passively letting children go and over-looking their ways. Leniency and ill attention is also unacceptable. To raise and cultivate a lovely legacy of children requires so much time, attention, intentional discipline and training.
I have received interesting letters and been with women whose children are a nightmare to be with because they thought grace-based parenting meant not ever getting in the way of their children's will or saying no to them or making them wait. Once a woman said her 3 year old spit on her husband and kicked him when he walked in the room, but she said, "He just didn't understand grace based parenting and he is getting upset with my way of applying these principles."
I would never, never allow such behavior in a child for one second unless I knew the child had a disorder of some kind that prevented more mature behavior. All children must be trained and taught and shaped in order to reach their full potential. But anger and harshness need not be the prevailing attitude. Strength can be exhibited by firmness with gentleness, consistency and guidance with love self-control as the base attitude of the parent.
Because I knew my children were going to be in a tough world, where their needs and whims would not be swiftly met, I knew that they had to grow strong inside and learn to develop an inner sense of strength and self-control.
So, it starts with the great soil of love, warm and tender affection, words of life and affirmation and acceptance--even if a baby is challenging and difficult.
Then, we feed our children daily on the truth of God's word, modeling and training their little natures to have character. Saying prayers of gratefulness while shaping their little hands in a form of prayer to God every meal, snatching their little hands if they ever hit or grab a toy, saying, "No, you may never hit a child, you may never grab a toy." Separating them when they misbehave, teaching them to have self-control by waiting the tiniest bit for mommy, not interrupting, not demanding. Encouraging them to share, to give, to help siblings, to serve others by giving them real live things to do.
Training children by giving them consequences that tug at their heart to choose to obey. Telling our children ahead of time what is expected of them. "We need to stop playing and clean up the den. I am telling you five minutes ahead of time so that you can finish what you are doing and then we will all work together. Do you understand? Tell me what I said. "
Shaping their little appetites for life with beauty, peace, self-giving serving of others. We are to be God's instrument in their lives of turning them away from their own self-wills. We cut out the offending pests that would deplete the emotional, moral or spiritual health of our children--it means we must confront sinful attitudes, create consequences, train truth, and memorize scripture and train from that scripture! We must also create and allow difficulties to have their course in our children's lives so that they may become strong and deepen their roots. If we steal them away from all that is bad or unfair, then they will never be able to stand on their own in a world at war with God's principles.
It is a life of nurturing, cultivating, protecting, allowing to bloom, cutting back and shaping. It is an active life of constant attention and work. But the product is one of beauty, grace, and indeed has the divine touch of God's handprint on it.
One of my older, godly friends who heard of our philosophy of grace-based parenting, and thought we could never raise godly children without spanking heavily and being strict, traveled with me and got to know our children very well.
"Sally, you are training and instructing and correcting your children all the time--constant instruction, "Now, we are going into a very adult concert and I trust you because I know you can choose to be mature. We need to be quiet, considerate of others and self-controlled."
("If you use a whiny voice, mommy cannot talk to you because, as you know I am allergic to whining. When you stop whining, I will listen to your request."
"There isn't much food for all the people today, so I would really appreciate it if our family could stand at the back of the line. I will be sure to feed you later if they run out of food."
"Come with me to the other room, please. We need to have a little talk." (and then the offending child will be given a mommy talk about the misbehavior or conduct, consequences if the behavior is not changed, with the child able to give defense, and if necessary, the child will apologize or share or whatever.)
The work of the gardener of souls is never finished, goes through many seasons, wards off many pests. But the end result--a godly heritage is more beautiful and sweeter to behold than I ever knew. The fruit of the planting and gardening produces more fruit and satisfaction that I would have understood.
Passivity, undisciplined--not allowed, but the grace of life-giving, always. It is the glory of the gardener to see the fruit of labor well-done, beautiful and in full bloom.