My current stage of life is what I call “the nap trap”: baby sleeps in the morning and baby sleeps in the afternoon. There’s a short window in between during which we pick up big brother from school and MAYBE hit the grocery store. That being said, I recently went about two months without making it to church because I was home with the sleeping baby. And the ability to attend a group bible study is out of the question right now, too. So. To LifeWay I went to find a study that I could do on my own that doesn’t really require a video component. No time for that!
If you’ve ever looked through the women’s bible study section, it’s rather overwhelming. But, God is good and He sent me home with “Mom Set Free” by Jeannie Cunnion. I hesitated because the subtitle reads “good news for moms who are tired of trying to be good enough.” I don’t struggle with comparison and “keeping up with the Jones’s” any more, so I didn’t know if this study would be applicable to my life.
Indeed it was! If you’re early in your parenting years, there is SO MUCH to learn from this study. If you’re more seasoned, I think you will find freedom from any guilt you may carry over past parenting decisions. And if you’re really seasoned in parenting AND grandparenting, perhaps you can disciple a young woman by working through this study with her.
Cunnion starts by helping you identify pressures in your life, particularly the belief that God is relying on us to be enough for our kids, as this is the source of most of our stressors. She reminds us that “our children don’t need us to be the perfection of Christ. They need to see us in pursuit of Christ” (p.27). With the idea of being “broken together,” she encourages readers to confess our weaknesses and be honest with ourselves and our children, not to highlight our failures but to invite the freedom it brings.
A theme streaming through the study is our powerlessness. While our instinct is to control the day, fix the problem, transform a child’s heart, its the Holy Spirit at work within our children that will produce the fruit we’re striving for. We have incredible impact and influence, but being reminded that we are powerless can help release some of the pressures we face. In the end, we don’t want rule-followers, but God-lovers.
Cunnion also helps you identify areas the enemy might be at work: when he flaunts our weaknesses front and center, when he breeds thoughts of comparison to make us give up altogether, when he tries to diminish the magnitude of our sins. She guides in practical ways so we can parent “from purpose rather than pressure” (p.55). I don’t know about you, but when I feel pressured I overreact, I’m unreasonable, and I’m inflexible.
So that’s when we’re pointed to grace. Lots and lots of emphasis on grace. Cunnion walks through a bounty of Scripture to deepen our understanding and receipt of God’s grace, because “we can’t give what we haven’t received” (p.61). Only when we feed ourselves the truths of the gospel can they become central in our homes as they overflow from our hearts.
With receipt of God’s grace Cunnion encourages readers to discipline and interact out of love, stating that “the most sacred space to demonstrate God’s love is in our children’s failures” (p. 118). As Paul urges in Ephesians 4, being humble, gentle, patient, and bearing with one another. When we demonstrate this kind of love, this is when we will have the most influence.
Without revealing the entirety of the study, I will mention the very practical tactics she offers to consider implementing in our own homes.
- Ways to plant seeds of faith in our kids’ hearts through prayer and studying God’s word
- What, Why, How, and Now: grace-filled discipline that’s for our children’s good, being both corrective and instructional
- Three ways to turn from our anger when responding to our kids
- Remember, Rely, and Recognize: ways to nurture gratitude in our children’s hearts
Feeling equipped and encouraged, I will place this book on a table nearby, not on a storage shelf. I know too well that I’ll need the reminder that I’m not letting my kids down and I’m not letting God down when things don’t go as planned. I’ll need the reminder that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV).