Until this month, I put parenting books into two easily-defined categories. There was Tedd Tripp and there was everyone else. Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart has served my generation of parents by correcting the Christless moralism that is so prevalent and seductive. Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson have given parents another resource to aid them in pointing their children Christ-ward. I’m glad to say that my “must-read” list for moms and dads has doubled. Give Them Grace is that good.
The authors’ focus (made evident in the book’s subtitle) is the parent’s redemptive mandate to hold before their children the “dazzling” gospel as the one sure and certain hope for all men. I told my college-age son the other day, “This is not a parenting book with a gospel emphasis. It’s a gospel book with a parenting emphasis.” I’m sure that was intentional.
This mother and daughter writing team operates from the proper conviction that what our children need is the gospel — not a new law. Beyond that, what parents who are “neck deep” in the parenting process need is the gospel. For that reason, I was encouraged at how frequently a simple and Scripturally-informed summary of Jesus’ work showed up in the text. It was of particular value to hear the gospel applied to various “case studies”. I suspect that parents will highlight those sections and use them as a models of Christ-centered parenting.
Early in the book, the reader is faced with the hard reality that the ethos in a Christian home should be qualitatively different that that of a moral Jewish family or noble Mormon family. We must concede — LDS families are turning out some very charming, courteous, hard-working, modest, polite young people. To our chagrin, there is often very little that separates the believing family from those who fully reject the work of the Lord Jesus. This failure must be corrected, and Fitzpatrick and Thompson help.
Elyse Fitzpatrick (the mother in the mother/daughter team) was candid in citing her own moralism during the parenting process. This willingness is a hope-producing service to the reader, providing a platform to contrast rigid, lifeless rule-keeping to a more grace-driven model. Never is the expectation of submission to authority weakened — barriers serve. But the warning is clear: adherence to a code does not constitute “goodness”. Grace-less compliance doesn’t make our children “good boys and girls”. It can, frighteningly, produce something more sinister and dangerous. Consider this quote: “Everything that isn’t gospel is law. Every way we try to make our kids good that isn’t rooted in the good news of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ is damnable, crushing, despair-breeding, Pharisee-producing law.”
Unlike this reviewer, the authors are not long on diagnosis while being short on cure. They provide clear direction. So, the eager, teachable parent will find helpful, concrete instruction regardless of where they are in the process. Give Them Grace is profitable (better vital) reading!
Here’s hoping this gospel gem endures subsequent printings and gets broad acceptance. Our children (and theirs), I’m convinced, will be the beneficiaries.