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Now updated with discussion guides for families and small groups, Families Where Grace Is in Place continues to minister to couples and parents nearly twenty years after it was first published. Using his professional and personal experience, VanVonderen shows readers how to nurture God-honoring relationships free of manipulation, legalism, and shame. This book is a practical and insightful discussion on living a graceful life and building a strong and happy home using God's tools.
|Publisher:||Baker Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.44(w) x 8.45(h) x 0.46(d)|
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Families Where Grace Is Not in Place
A man asked his twelve-year-old daughter one day, "Chrissy, can you do something for me?"
"Sure, Dad," Chrissy answered. "What would you like me to do?"
"Right now I need to run an errand. But later on I have to do some work with that fence over there," he said, pointing to the high old fence that stood guard over the back of their property. "Would you please clean up the debris that's all along the edge of it? You can put it in these bags, and when I get back I'll carry them away."
"Okay, Dad," she replied.
The dad left, and Chrissy started on her task. In less than an hour she was finished with the entire job. Her dad wasn't home yet, so she tried to think of something else to do to help. Looking at the old fence, she thought, I'll bet dad is going to paint this old fence. I'll give him a head start. He'll sure be surprised when he gets home.
The sun was hot, the brush was stiff, and the fence was high. After about an hour Chrissy was tired, sweaty, and discouraged. She looked at what she'd accomplished so far. What a bogus job. I give up. I'm a terrible helper.
Just then Chrissy's dad pulled up. But he didn't get out. He just sat there looking at the fence. The streaky brush marks spoke of an old paint brush in inexperienced hands. He could picture his sweet Chrissy perched on the tips of her toes, working hard.
When he got out of the car there was Chrissy. She was covered with so much dirt and paint that it was hard to see her skin. As he got a closer look, he could see the trails of sweat and tears through the grime on her face.
Chrissy ran to him. "Daddy, I wanted to help so much," she cried.
Chrissy's dad led her to a nearby lawn chair. Sitting down with her on his lap he said, "Sweety, I've got some bad news, some worse news, and some good news.
"The bad news is that I have new brushes and a step stool in the trunk of my car. I ran the errand to pick up those things at the hardware store. That brush you were using belonged to your grandpa. It isn't useful for much more than a keepsake."
"Well, that's bad news," said Chrissy. "What's the worse news?"
"The worse news is that I'm going to tear down the fence."
"What? After all that work! Why?"
"Because it's served its purpose, it can't be repaired, and I have the stuff right over there by the garage to build a brand-new one. Ready for the good news?" Dad asked anxiously.
"I suppose." Chrissy sniffed.
Chrissy's dad took her face in his hands, looked full into her eyes and, with tears in his own, said, "Chrissy, I really love you. And I am so proud that you gave that old fence a try. Why don't you get in the car and I'll take you out for some ice cream."
"After I wasted all that time and made a terrible mess?"
"Well, you know," her father countered, "with the lousy tools you had you didn't stand a very good chance. And besides that, it wasn't even your job. So let's have some ice cream. After that, if you're still game, we can build the new fence together. This one will be much prettier. And it's specially designed to let the sun shine in and let the breeze blow through our yard...."
The story of Chrissy and her dad is very much like that of so many Christian parents who come to me for pastoral advice and family counseling. They want to do the right thing. They try like crazy to have a Christian marriage and to raise Christian kids. But they've ended up tired, discouraged, and feeling like failures.
If you have ever felt this way, I have news for you. Few of us are equipped to do the right job when it comes to creating the best relationship with our spouse, or when it comes to training and guiding our children. Like Chrissy, we see that there is a big job to be done, and we try to use the best relationship tools we knowbut in the end, we too often wind up feeling as if we've done a terrible job. We don't stop to think that maybe our tools are inadequate for the job. No wonder we feel tired and discouraged! For some, it will be a little frightening to think, Maybe I've gone to all those seminars and heard all those tapes on how to take charge of my family relationships, and the techniques and principles they offer don't do the job.
There are many books available on the behaviors and attitudes that characterize a Christian family: how to have a Christian marriage; how to make your kids clean their room; how to get your sex life back; how to get your spouse to respond the way you want him/her to, and a host of other formula-oriented books. There are also many books that present ways to transfer Christian values to members of the family. And there are still others that talk about how to build positive self-esteem in family members.
Too often, though, the work we try to do as Christian spouses and parents is not the right job at all. We focus on "unspiritual" or wrong behavior, then we set out to apply pressure, control behavior, and do everything in our power to change our spouse or children. As I have seen with numerous Christian couples and families, this is the primary cause of exhaustion, depression, and the hopeless sense of wanting to bail out of it all. When people spend their lives trying to transform their spouse and their kids, the natural result is tiredness and discouragement and the desire to quit. Therefore, this book is more about learning the right job, and less about learning new techniques.
This first step is easyif we will do it: We must learn the simple difference between God's job and ours. God knows you have done the best you could, using the tools you've had. But God may be like Chrissy's father, saying to you, "I can see that you've worked really hard to help me and to please me. ButI don't quite know how to tell you thisyou have been burning yourself out doing a job I never meant for you to do. You're trying to paint over something that's bound to break down in the end, and no amount of white paint can cover the mess. Let me show you how to build something that's brand new."
I am talking about learning how to be continually empowered by God's grace, and therefore able to empower your spouse and children to learn and to grow. And to do that, we have to make the frightening step of giving up our fear of people and our drive to conform outwardly to what other Christians expect of us, or seem to.
God's job is to fix and to change. Our job is to depend, serve, and equip. This is the work of grace. And it is more restful than you can imagine.
As you change your mind about what your job really is, you are going to discover that you are more capable as a spouse or parent than you thought you were. You don't have to keep fixing those old relationships, even though it seems you have spent most of your life working on them. God and you can build anew with the people you love, relationships that will let in fresh air and light.
While this book contains many practical examples, it is not a "how-to" book. This is about God's grace. It is not possible to have truly healthy Christian families unless behaviors and attitudes are developed in the context of relationships that are grace-full, lived in an atmosphere of grace. My purpose, then, is to place the filter of God's grace over the processes of marriage and parenting, the nuts and bolts of which may look different in each family.
Capable, creative, contented people, people of faith and depth, come from families where grace is in place. Isn't this what we all want?
Let's begin rethinking our relationship job by looking, in Part One, at families where grace is not in placegood Christian families where there is the sense that something is not "working right." It is for these families that I want to tell what I have learned, personally and professionally, about living in a family where grace is in placeand the rest and happiness that brings.
Families Where Grace is the Place by Jeff VanVonderen
Copyright © 1992, Jeff VanVonderen
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.