As a mom, I am prone to wander over to the dark-side of performance-based parenting.
One of the deeply woven threads in my story is— in the past I have found my identity in and based my worthiness on how well I can perform or accomplish a task. This is a very dangerous way to live and in conflict with the assurance of a gospel-rooted identity—an identity that rests in Jesus and bears gospel fruit of union with Him.
Performance-based parenting keeps me tangled-up in my personal sin, curved-in on myself (incurvatus in se), and constantly returning to ultimate joy-sucker: comparison. When I am tangled-up in performance-based parenting, I find myself concerned about how well my children are measuring up to everyone else—comparing, competing, perfecting, achieving.
This curved-in way of living focuses my eyes on people and averts my eyes from my Savior.
The gospel has the power to unravel and free us from performance-based living. If you are exhausted by performance-based living and comparison, I would encourage you to investigate Christ and who He says He is by reading His word. Start here: Life Issues Books
When identity is securely rooted in Christ, parenting is transformed. Gospel-based parenting turns our gaze to Jesus, freeing us from the sin that so easily entangles. When our eyes are focused on Christ, comparison and the pressures of performance-based living unravel away.
We model and pass on to our children a legacy of security in our earthy performance record or a legacy of resting in Christ’s performance and trusting Him on the journey of gospel transformation.
The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
It is quite upside-down and inside-out for me to look past the outward and fight to get to the heart. I lived many years operating by measuring up myself and others based on their outward performance—drinking from the unsatisfying cistern called performance and comparison. I have recognized my idolatry of performance and comparison impact the way I come alongside my children, causing my sin to pass on a tangled-up gospel.
Unraveling my old patterns of performance-based living tangled- up in sin and embracing my new identity—Christ in me, the hope of glory—transforms what I thought I knew about raising children and renews my mind to plead with the Lord, “Jesus, make my focus in parenting my children not be on outward behaviors. Help me fight to get to the heart.”
The Lord cares about what lies beneath the surface and I desire to model Christlikeness by obediently cultivating a new pattern to do the same.
“Holiness is not a condition we drift into. We are not passive spectators of a sanctification God works in us. On the contrary, we have to intentionally ‘put off’ from us all conduct that is incompatible with our new life in Christ, and ‘put on’ a new life compatible with it.”—John Stott
Change beneath the surface takes time and we wait to see gospel fruit expectantly . . . by faith. My curved inwardness desires change to happen as fast as I like my internet speed, but gospel change bears fruit at a dial up pace.
Focusing on the big gospel story reorients my mind and as I lean into Christ, this is where I find assurance and rest.
All four of my children are sinners. They stumble. I have experienced their wandering hearts, even as elementary and preschool students. But God, He moves me to breathe deeply on the journey of being alongside my children in their childhood imperfections—at a dial up pace while I wait expectantly to see glimpses of gospel fruit.
In parenting, unraveled from my tangled-up desire to perform well and measure myself up to others, the gospel gives me perspective to see my stumbling children as God sees them: precious, uniquely knit together, and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14). The gospel reminds me that— I too, am on this journey with them, a sinner, saved by nothing but God’s grace.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This moves me to compassion and freedom. Compassion in all of our stumblings and freedom from the snares of performance and comparison. God is a sovereign creator and powerful possessor of His covenant people. I am simply an alongside cultivator: modeling, praying, and living by faith that God will work in the hearts of my children, the same way He has worked in mine—at a dial up pace.
In unraveled parenting, I can be assured by the truth: God pursues, redeems, and transforms hearts—from generation to generation. I need to return to this gospel truth daily—for my own heart and for the integrity of the gospel I am passing on to my children.
Unraveled from my old pattern of performance-based parenting allows me to turn my inward gaze upward. I am truly free from rising and falling based on my performance record and my children are truly free from measuring up to current cultural and moral standards—for me and my children, the gospel is not about us—it is about Him. I want to be moved from the dark-side of performance-based parenting and rest in the marvelous light of this truth.