I have one child, this summer, who needs a lot of correction.

One recent morning, he committed about a dozen sins in rapid fire–so many that I was unsure even where to begin and my blood pressure was so high that we both needed some time to decompress. So I sent him to his room and told him to read his Bible. Not as a time filler; I truly believed that’s what he needed.

He rolled his eyes (making my blood pressure spike higher yet) and stomped off whining, “I don’t know what to reeeeeead!”

Through clenched teeth, I told him to bring me his Bible and I would find him some verses. (Grrrrrr…)

As I stood at the bottom of the stairs tapping my foot, I heard him stomping around like a gorilla. Then he wailed, “I can’t fiiiiiiiiind my Bible!” Well, this made me even more mad! So I stomped up to his room, found the Bible, opened to a page, and jabbed my finger at it, saying, “This!! This is what YOU need!”

Not my finest parenting moment.

After we had both calmed down, I sat with him on the stairs and asked, “Why did God give us the Bible?”

He said, “To help us be good. But I’m trying to be good, and I caaaaaan’t!” He burst into tears.

And then I got to remind him. No, God didn’t give us the Bible as a list of rules to keep. He gave us the laws to show us that we can’t be good. That we need a savior–Jesus. The good news is that Jesus’s spilled blood is enough to cover our vast lack of goodness, and forgive all of our offenses. Then, as clean and purified people, if we yield to God’s Spirit, he will empower us to do good. Which is completely different from us trying–and constantly failing–to be good on our own.

This is a conversation I have regularly with my child. It’s one I have regularly with God, too. Somehow, my child and I always slip back into thinking that we can be good. And we have to get our thinking back on track.

We concluded the whole episode with hugs and prayers and refreshed faith. It was good.

Then later that day, I heard something on the radio. Jessica Thompson said, “What’s sad.. is that the kids who do act outwardly good never hear the gospel from us. They’re the ones that are in desperate need of it, because they think their goodness will save them. They think they’re ok.” 

I thought back to the massive dose of the Gospel I had just given the child who was obviously being ‘bad’. But what about my other kids–the ones who seem so ‘good’? Do I talk to them about the Gospel? Do I remind them that their ‘goodness’ won’t save them–that they need Jesus just as much as anybody else?

I had to conclude that no, I don’t. And that is sad!

On certain (rare) days, I’m a really good mom. I don’t clench my teeth or stomp up the stairs or jab my finger angrily at the Bible. But those are the days that I struggle more to be humble. How quickly I lose track of my need for Jesus. The more ‘good’ I am, the more I slip into thinking I am OK. And it’s then that I’m most like the Pharisees, whom Jesus corrected more than anybody.

Good moms and good kids need the Gospel just as much as the bad ones do. And not just once. We need it over and over and over. And God doesn’t have a finger-jabbing way with us. He graciously, kindly calls to us from his Word, saying, “This!! This is what YOU need!”

Read more from Jessica Thompson and her mom, Elyse Fitzpatrick, who have written Give Them Grace here


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