I was feeling sorry for myself and gripped by the fear of fear yesterday after reading The Fearful Pastor by Paul Tripp, which is not the gospel-centered response, I know. But I’m not going to lie about it. I was having a serious pity party with guilt, anxious hand-wringing and tears to boot. I am writing this post not only as a way to mortify that fearful and unfaithful response in my soul—O how I long to drive a nail in those sins and weaknesses that have plagued me and beleaguered my walk with Christ for so long—but out of love for Jesus and for his Church I want to use this to warn and exhort.
I wrote over at TGC about a time in my life when I was consumed with becoming a “godly” wife–mother–homemaker, but that good desire wasn’t rooted in the gospel, it was deeply rooted in fear. Fear of grace, fear of the culture, fear of sin, fear of “the world,” fear of what other families thought of my parenting, fear of any church that wasn’t “like-minded” with me on every jot and tittle, fear of “government schools,” fear of those preaching what I thought was “too much grace” instead of concentrating on “godly living,” and on and on and on. But by his grace, Jesus Christ reawakened a deep and all-consuming love for himself in my heart two years ago this September, and my life has not been the same since. Yesterday I came across this in Paul Tripp’s article: “How many of us regularly work to recast as acts of faith things that we have actually done out of fear?” I saw those years of parenting for what they really were: Acts of fear not of faith. Memories came flooding in along with guilt and remorse for those years where my parenting came from all manner of fear rather than faith in Jesus Christ, the savior and redeemer of parents and children alike.
Yesterday, my eighteen year old came over for dinner. This was a few hours after I had read The Fearful Pastor. By this time I was already torturing myself with how I ruined her by my gospel-subversive, fearful, “be holy for God is holy” parenting style. As the oldest, she was at a crucial and impressionable age when I had gospel amnesia and our parenting was grounded in everything but the gospel. The little girl who used to have an autographed picture of Sally Ride on her dresser is now a young adult who struggles with her own fears. Why? Because I, as her model of woman and mother, shrunk the Kingdom of God to the parameters of home only. All house rules were founded upon fear of “the world” instead of fear of Jesus the Transformer and Redeemer of culture. The name of the game was how insular can we get and how far can we get away from the big bad world and the worldly culture in the church. I used to fool myself by calling it a “conquest by retreat.” I liked to spout off about how the Lordship of Christ extended into all of life and throw out that Kuyperian jargon, but when it came down to every day life in the home, it was as isolated and detached from the world (and even from some of the church community) as you can get.
It wasn’t until some time early this morning that I really felt my fear of fear being finally released. Spending time in Isaiah reminded me that although I am like that “worm Jacob” yet the Lord will uphold me with his righteous right hand, my Redeemer is the Holy One, the only Savior. He is God and there is no other. He WILL redeem my fearful parenting, past, present, and future! And although I am loath to use isolated verses, the Spirit speaks and presses upon me Matthew 15:28, “…O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire…”
Do you have your own fears as a parent? Maybe worldliness isn’t your bogeyman, maybe some other fear. You can not save your children through fearful parenting! I urge you to lay it down at the Cross, at the feet of the One who has conquered all things, and rise up victorious, letting faith in the gospel be your parental driving force. By his wounds you are healed.