Expectations and Grace

Last fall, the ladies in our small group agreed to create a “book club” of sorts.  We meet once a month at my house and fellowship together and discuss our current book.  We are all very busy, so we’ve only been able to work on two books since September.  But it’s getting us all to read regularly and read critically, thinking about what’s on the pages so we can (hopefully) discuss them intelligently.  😉

The first book we waded through was C.S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain.  There were times in those three months where I think we were all pretty convinced that this book was the problem.  But, it really was a good book, just much thicker reading that any of us had attempted in a long time.  One of my favorite chapters was the one on hell.  (Is that weird?  It seems weird.)  He offers a fascinating perspective on the subject.  Anyway, I recommend the book.  Just be prepared to read each chapter a couple of times to really “get it”.

Our current book is Do Hard Things by Brett & Alex Harris.  All of us in this book club are mothers with children either in their early teens or rapidly approaching them.  All of us want our children to be counter-cultural, not settling for the norm but striving for excellence.  We selected this book, most of us thinking this would be our pre-read and then we would read it with our children in the near future.  Great book! I definitely will be reading it with my girls soon.

But it has created a bit of conflict and struggle for me personally.  I was the child they talk about a lot in the book, the one who excelled – especially academically – and received a lot of praise from adults for being a “good kid”, but I never really had to work at it and only a couple of adults in my life ever really pushed me harder than I was used to being pushed.  As I look back, I struggle with regret that I wasted a lot of time and potential that God had placed in me.

I want more than this for our kids.  I see incredible potential in them and I want them to know that our expectations are high.  Not that we expect them each to be the very best at everything they do, but that we expect them to push themselves to do better, to never settle for the easy road, to always try harder.  This is particularly difficult since I like to settle for the easy road most days.  So this book has been a great challenge for me personally, to expect more of myself and of them.

So in my reading of this book, I found myself pushing harder with the girls, expecting more, requiring more, mostly in school but also around the home.  I wanted them to realize that we were not just going to slide through life.  But in my efforts to raise expectations, I realized this weekend that I had completely thrown grace out the window.

I’ve been working my way through Ann’s book on my own.  I finished it the other night.  And it was this weekend, reading her words, her words always full of grace, that I was reminded that I was missing it.  If I don’t show grace, all my high expectations are only clanging noise.  The girls were fighting against me; obeying, but not out of love.  We were all exhausted, exasperated, by this burden I had placed upon us.

This week, in spite of losing our rhythm, I feel like I have found my center again.  Gentleness has returned to my parenting, grace has taken up residence again in our home.  And while things are not perfect, we are all so much happier.

But my struggle remains….how do I hold my children, myself, to high standards while showing grace?  How do I communicate to them that we will not take the easy road, that we will do hard things, while still holding their hearts gently?  As I write, I suppose the best way is by my own example, through open, honest conversation, by inviting them into community with me to see how I live as a woman following hard after her Savior.

But what about you?  Have you found ways to demonstrate high expectations while showing grace?  I’d love to hear how you balance the two in your home.

Praying your day is filled with God’s grace and goodness!

~ Sara