I Can’t Save My Kids Anymore Than I Can Teach Birds to Fly

I was involved in an exciting (failed) bird rescue attempt!

The kids and I had been watching a little nest in the bushes for a few weeks. I’d noticed lots of erratic bird activity around the area so I started hunting for the nest and found it. Not long after, the two eggs hatched and we were able to peek in at the baby birds.

Momma bird sitting on the nest

Then on Saturday I went to see how they were doing and snap some pics. As I walked up to the nest, one of the babies darted out of the nest in a flurry and plopped to the ground.

It couldn’t fly yet, but hopped around the yard as it tried to fly. I was mortified. I thought for sure that I’d scared the bird out of its nest much too early and doomed it to die a slow flightless death.

I lost track of where it was and came inside, guilty, to confess my sin to Tom. Then I went back out to re-check the nest and look for the bird. I saw him hopping spryly around and found a chance to redeem myself. I thought, “If I can just catch him and put him back, it’ll be like it never happened. So I did. (Later Tom reminded me that I shouldn’t have touched it because my scent would scare the parents off. My bad.)

Baby bird still in the nest.

I put the bird gently back in the nest. To my surprise, the other baby bird was no longer in the nest. It had flew the coop of its own accord. Well, the baby bird stayed put and I came back inside, very relieved to have at least returned it to its nest, but still wondering if I’d ruined their chances at a happy flying bird life. 5 minutes later I went to check on it and it was gone from the nest, again.

My bird rescue attempt. Photo credit: Seth

The next morning the kids and I were eating breakfast and Eliza squealed, “MOM! It’s the baby bird, out on the deck!!!” I slowly came to the sliding glass door and sure enough, there was the tiny baby bird. The other kids ran over and scared it, and it flew away, off our second story deck.

Yep. Flew.

I didn’t rescue it or teach it to fly. I happened to scare it out of its nest at the right time.

But I did think to myself, flying is a little like the new birth. It happens. I can’t make it happen or prevent it from happening for my kids or anyone else.

That’s not to say that what I do doesn’t matter. It does, it does! I teach them. I create the environment they’re growing up in and all of that matters immensely. That bird wouldn’t have flown if its parents hadn’t made a nest for it and sat on it and fed it the right food. Likewise I make a home for my kids, I teach them and sit on them if necessary (ha!), and I feed them the food of God’s Word.

But I don’t make them fly and the new birth isn’t born of me. It’s born of the Spirit through faith in the Son. I can read them the Bible, but I can’t make it taste good to them. I can pray with them, but I can’t make them pray. I can love them, but I can’t make them love others.

I can effect their behavior, but I can’t give them a new heart. God can.

That’s why there is no parenting formula to make sure we don’t raise Cain. There is no secret tip, or foolproof method.

There’s The Book.

The Bible is not a secret. It holds the words of life, the Good News. And everything pertaining to life, if we have the discernment to apply it with grace and wisdom from above. Lord, grant this mom more of that wisdom!

So, I take heart that my call as a mom is to faithfulness, not flying. Faithfulness to the Book, faithfulness to the God who wrote it, faithfulness to the Jesus who saves in it, and faithfulness to the Spirit who grants me faith and opens my eyes to behold wonders from the Word.

The saving belongs to God. This knowledge fuels our prayers. Save our children Lord, by the power of the Gospel of Jesus, give them His righteousness. Spirit come and awaken dead hearts to think on Jesus and well up with loving affection.

Happy hopping bird, now able to fly. Phew!


how children are provoked to anger, and what to do instead

Mark Altrogge at The Blazing Center had this insightful list of ways that children are provoked to anger. It was very helpful for me.

Here’s what he had to say about how children are provoked to anger:

“- By constantly criticizing them and not encouraging them.  When they feel they can never please us enough.
– By having double standards – Do as I say, not as I do.  Expecting them to do things we don’t do, e.g. ask forgiveness, humble themselves, etc.
– By anger and harshness
– By a lack of affection
– By telling them what to do or not do without giving Biblical reasons (e.g., Do it because I said to do it, or because it’s just wrong).
– By being offended at their sin because it bothers us, not because it offends God.
– By comparing them to others (Why can’t you act like your sister?)
– By hypocrisy – acting like a Christian at church but not at home
– By embarrassing them (correcting, mocking or expressing disappointment in them in front of others)
– By always lecturing them and never listening to them
– By disciplining them for childishness or weakness, not for sin
– By failing to ask their forgiveness when we sin against them
– By pride – failing to receive humble correction from our spouses or our children when we sin.
– By self-centered reactions to their sin (How could you do this to ME?)
– By ungracious reactions to their sin (What were you thinking?  Why in the world would you do that?)
– By forgetting that we were (and are) sinners (I would NEVER have done that when I was your age).

May God give us gracious, gentle, humble, affectionate hearts toward our children.”

Reading this makes me pray, pray and pray some more that Jesus would work in my kids’ lives despite their mom’s sins. I thought it would be helpful to turn this list into a positive “to do,” to go along with the “not-to-do.”  Sometimes I do better when I have a target to aim at, not only a boogey man to avoid. Both are good.

So, “Let us consider how to stir up one another (esp. our children) to love and good works.. encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24

Here’s the “how-to version” to stir up our children to love and good works:

– By encouraging them and letting them know how pleased and delighted we are with them. By pointing out the grace of God in their daily life.

– By setting an example in our daily walk with the Lord. Modeling humility. By expecting the same standard out of ourselves as we do out of our children.

– By being loving and brokenhearted when they sin. By sacrificing our own comfort and to-do list for the day to bring them back to fellowship with us and the family.

– By open and tender affection.

– By showing them examples from the Bible that they can understand and identify with to lead them towards the Lord.

– By being brokenhearted (not in a manipulative way) about their sin, because of its offense to God, yet being hopeful for their growth.

– By seeing them as uniquely formed and made by God for a purpose.

– By being consistent in our walk with God and our attitude toward them.

– By honoring them privately and, on occasion, publicly.

– By listening to their side and hearing the heart underneath.

– By bearing with their weaknesses and childishness. By being consistent in discipline for sin.

– By asking for forgiveness when we sin against them.

– By humbly receiving correction from our spouse or our children when we sin.

– By reacting to their sin with a concern for their soul.

– By graciously responding to their sin with firmness and lion-hearted love.

– By remembering who we were and who we are: fellow sinners with our children and (hopefully) co-heirs of Jesus with them as well.

a provocative reality for parents

Apart from their own sin nature, it’s almost certain that I will be the single biggest influence of sin in my children’s lives.

What do you think?  Do you own that?

Here’s why I own that and continue parenting with boldness(instead of throwing in the towel in hopelessness): Christ and His work on the Cross makes all the sin that I commit around and against my children an opportunity for them to see the effective and redemptive work of the Savior in their sinful mother’s life.

Do I sin willingly or without shame and grief: no, no, no.  But the grief that accompanies the sin, the confession and repentance and forgiveness that happen, are the primary ways my children will actually be able to see the Gospel with their own eyes.

And I pray that seeing it day after day, reading it in the Word day after day, that they will want to taste it for themselves.  And that God will call them to taste and see that He is good.  That He is sweeter than honey.  That the Person of Jesus is wonderful and terrifying and gracious and uncompromising and more than they could ever exhaustively know.

Yet that they will long for more of the knowledge of God and His Son and will pursue it with the complete devotion of bought and paid for children of the Heavenly Father.

what do you dream for your kids?

We all have hopes for our kids.  

Mine are very big and very small at the same time.

I want big things: that they will know God, love God, serve and worship God and His Son Jesus.

And on the smaller side, I want them just to be better than me.  I want them to master the things I’m not mastering.  I want them to be a better spouse, a better parent, a better person, than I am.  

The hardest and surest way to that happening is for me to be better than I am, by God’s grace.

And probably the majority of my parenting (75%?) is fear-based (mostly God-fearing, but some man-fearing too).  I parent to avoid what I don’t want them to be.  With fear and trembling I realize that without God’s grace and His strong tools of discipline, instruction, and love (ie their parents) my kids will be left to themselves and their sin nature.  

I want to keep parenting in fear (the Godly, right kind).  But I also want to dream great and Godly dreams for my kids.  I want to expect the best and be ready for God’s blessings in their lives.  He is a good God.  He gives good gifts to His children.  

It’s ok to eagerly hope for and expect God’s working in their lives.  And dream big dreams for them.

What are your fears and dreams for your kids?