A pastor in a pastors’ gathering in Devils Lake, North Dakota asked an all important question. What I heard him say maybe is a little different than what he meant but here is my interpretation. He heard as our solution to the problem of kids getting into trouble as two parents in the home working to prevent this from happening. He then asked a good question, “What about grace?”
Now understandably the response to that question can go in many directions. There is the free grace of God that gifts us with salvation which is not any of our own doing. There is the grace to know that anything we do to solve the harm our kids could get into may not be enough, yet God is still there for us. There is the grace of God we can proclaim to the brokenness and sinfulness in ourselves or others.
In the specific case of Parents Arise, let me share what I have come to see as the particular arena where the gift of grace really comes into play. First of all, Parents Arise emerges out of many years of standing with the misery and brokenness of families full of anguish.
Let me give you just one example of what we are talking about here. A parent called Adults Saving Kids (our parent organization) looking for help. In this family there were two parents who had three children. The third child, a beautiful 17 year old daughter, met up with a man who wormed his way into her life and got her prostituting herself. Her parents, brother and older sister watched with horror as this daughter’s life began to disintegrate right before their eyes. Whatever they did to help her out of this trap did not work. Finally, they were able to get her into a recovery kind of place in northern Idaho costing thousands of dollars. However, she ran away from there, confused and broken down as she was. They drove thousands of miles, found her and brought her back home. Within a few days she left and was back on the streets with new guys controlling her life. She got pregnant, had a baby, came home and started to raise the baby. A decent guy got interested in her and started to go with her. But guess what? Within a short time, she took off leaving the guy behind and the baby for her parents to raise. Now imagine the dilemma and heartache this was for the parents. Suddenly they were not only dealing with an out of control young adult whom they loved but now their lives were taken up with raising a baby. Their daughter sometimes came home for a momentary stay but would take off again to be with men who were using her and dominating her life. Then she got pregnant again. What does this now mean for the parents? The saga goes on.
Now as a pastor in a position to be there for them, I have worked with this family over the phone, through emails and even been to their home in California. I have done this for about eight years. For all the heartache, the prayers, the sharing, the multitude of seemingly hopeless agony , the lamenting cries of the mother, I have stood beside this family giving them myself and the Word of God to sustain them. Now all of this I have done without getting paid but with the backing of prayers from our prayer team. Where does all this end? At this moment, I don’t really know. What I do know is that God cares deeply and God has given me the grace and the parents the grace to journey down this dark road together.
So I ask myself the question. Where did grace come in when I did not prepare my own child for what she would face the way I could have? Where was grace when in my arrogance and denial, I did not have any appetite for the weapons God had made available to me to use to equip my child? How could grace come into play when I said to myself, “My kids will not get into trouble”?
Martin Luther wrote in the Preface to the Large Catechism, “He (God) knows our danger and need. He knows the constant and furious attacks and assaults of the devil. So he wishes to warn, equip, and protect us against them with good “armor” against their “flaming darts,” and with a good antidote against their evil infection and poison. O what mad, senseless fools we are! We must ever live and dwell in the midst of such mighty enemies as the devils, and yet we despise our weapons and armor, too lazy to give them a thought!” As a parent I was lazy and asleep and had no one to wake me up and put the armor before my face. That would have been grace for me. But who knows, I could have shrugged that off. But that would have put me in the category of “To whom much has been given much is required.” I would no longer have been off the hook for my lack of awareness of subtle evil and God’s provision of armor.
The Bible is full of people who wake people up and face them with not only reality but also with the Good News in what God in Christ has done. They tell us what God is ready to supply in the way of answered prayer, wisdom and weapons for the battle being waged. In the long run these are people of grace, are they not? So, in this light, Parents Arise is asking pastors to be people of grace, asking parents and grandparents to rise up and ready their offspring at the top of the cliff so they have the equipment, the resources, the support, the armor, the promises of Christ God has provided to fend off the manipulative attackers they face and will face. Is it necessary that they have to go over the cliff and be shattered at the bottom before grace can occur? To prepare our young people while they are still impressionable and under our authority is a ministry of faithful grace. And Christ is there to powerfully and gracefully guide and fortify such a ministry. When one’s offspring find themselves recipients of such parenting and grandparenting, they may never appreciate how they have been gifted but they may very well have different lives than the tragedies that could have been. If they have any awareness at all of what misery they have been saved from, could they not rightfully say, “There but for the grace of God go I?”