In Van-Vonderen’s own words, “this book is more about learning the right job, and less about learning new techniques. The first step is easy – if we will do it: We must learn the simple difference between God’s job and ours. God’s job is to fix and change. Our job is to depend, serve, and equip.” (p. 15)
The book recounts the differences between grace-filled families and families that shame their loved ones into good behavior. The author uses the labels “grace-full” and “curse-full”. By curse he doesn’t mean that family members curse each other, but that they live by behavior patterns that are a result of the fall. After Adam and Eve rejected God’s plan for them to live in perfect relationship with Him (and each other), human relationships became power-oriented. Curse-full families try to control the behavior of spouses and children. Grace-full families slowly release parental control by training their kids to make good choices.
While there are no earth shattering truths in Families Where Grace Is in Place, the book offers much food for thought. For instance, VanVonderen points out that children have three basic needs: to know they are loved with no strings attached, to know that they are valuable and capable, and to know that they are not alone to face life. Within the context of meeting these needs parents give their children the skills they need to live healthy lives that are pleasing to God. (It’s tempting to think that “perfect behavior” is pleasing to God, but you won’t get that message if you read this book. Grace by definition cannot be based on performance.) VanVonderen constantly reminds the reader that God extended grace to us before we were worthy (Rom 5:8). For that reason we can extend love to our children even when they mess up.
It’s not about “controlling”, but empowering to make good decisions. (Hmm… sounds a lot like another book I read this past summer.) We shouldn’t try to fix everything for our children. Instead we teach them to take responsibility for their own actions. “In curse-full relationships, rules and performance take the place of people and needs. In a family that seeks to be a place of grace, relationships are there to make sense of the rules. A grace-full family is the place where people can do the job of learning to live without the fear of losing love and acceptance if the job gets too messy.” (p.129)
I was challenged by this book to be more honest about my feelings when family conflicts occur. The author points out that avoiding friction by squashing emotions is unhealthy and DISHONEST. Does that mean I’m going lambast everybody in my family now? Hardly. My goal is to be a grace-filled parent who knows the difference between God’s job and mine. And I trust He’ll give me the grace to speak up when I need to.