Scarlet “F”

A few months ago, a mother shared her pain and frustration over her child’s current path in life. She desperately wanted her child to avoid her mistakes, some of which she still feels the consequences of today.  Despite her best efforts in teaching what’s right, providing rules, transparently sharing her painful life lessons, and lots of love, her child has gone on to make many of the same choices. As a mother I grieved with her and empathized completely. I thought of her again recently when I found myself forbidding my children something out of fear.  The Holy Spirit showed me it was because I was sin conscious instead of Christ conscious.

Sin consciousness has an effect similar to that of the red “A” worn by Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter. It shamed her before people and kept her focused on her failure. Self-consciousness about past failures, as a parent, breeds fear and a negative expectation that my children will make the mistakes I’ve made.  Out of desperation, I then give my children a rule (law) I hope will keep them from whatever I’m afraid they’ll do. I may even tie it to a law in the Bible for extra “credibility”. The problem is, just like for the children of Israel, the nature of a law brings attention to and entices sin (Romans 3:20; 5:20). Now that they’re intrigued by what’s forbidden they wrestle with the temptation “not to do” the thing that every fiber of their being now wants to do.  We all know what depending on will power gets us…frustration and failure.

God’s law is perfect for what it was intended – bringing people to faith in Christ (Galatians 3:24).  It cannot and does not give people right desires.  As believers we’ve been freed from focusing on sin and death to new life in Christ.  Instead of the scarlet “S” for sin, we now bear the scarlet “F” for forgiven; forgiven forever, in fact, with the blood bought promise that the Father will no longer keep record of our sin (Hebrews 8:12; 10:17).  When I know and believe I have peace with God through Christ, Christ is the only one left to focus on.  The grace I enjoy teaches me how to teach my children (Titus 2:11-12, NIV).  My instruction and correction becomes who Christ is, who they are in Him and what they have because of Him.  For instance, when my kids ask for second or (dare I say) third helpings and I know they aren’t hungry, I can respond out of fear that without self-control they’ll be overweight adults and therefore confine them to one serving as a rule (been there).  I could also chide them for being greedy when there are so many children starving in the world (done that).  Or I could remind them they’ve had plenty, Jesus is their Shepherd who makes sure they don’t lack anything and they will eat again (finally got this t-shirt)!  I’m having a little fun with this but the point is, unveiling Jesus’ loving, abundant, provision highlights His faithfulness and unmerited favor (grace) rather than fleshly desires and self-will.

I readily admit this is very much a work in progress for hubby and me.  That explains why it took me so long to “pen” this one.  It’s so much easier to drum the “do’s and don’ts of dutiful disciples” into their heads and hope “it sticks” than to reveal Christ in the Scriptures and trust His goodness to lead them to repentance or change of mind (Romans 2:4).  More than anything the Lord wants me to use my words to increase their knowledge of Him and the Father. That’s how they will abound in grace and peace and grab hold of the promises through which they “escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (2 Peter 1:2-4, NIV).”  Rooting them in God’s grace precedes the virtues we anticipate seeing in them (2 Peter 1:5-7, NIV).  Lord, may it be unto my family according to Your Word; in spite of my slow learning curve (lol)!

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