There is something special about working with wood. The tools. The sawdust. There is a satisfaction of molding a piece of wood to become something beautiful and something that will last. But an experienced craftsman knows that a beautiful and lasting finish begins with using the right kind of board. Wood needs time to dry. A twisted board needs to be reshaped. But not every carpenter is patient with the process. In haste, some will use excessive glue and the pressure of multiple clamps to get the wood to behave. You can make anything straight with enough pressure, but over time it will crack, twist, and split.

This is true when we are shaping wood and shaping kids.

We tend to use hard words and heavy expectations like clamps on our kids. We can apply enough pressure and get them to be quiet, to share, or to do whatever it is we want them to do or not do. We see immediate behavior change and we think our quick parenting efforts are working. However, like a warped board forced to conform by external pressure, our kids begin to twist and crack leaving bigger problems in the long run.

Rather than clamping down on our children so they behave in ways that are straight and outwardly compliant, lets do the harder and more rewarding work of winning their hearts for the sake of Christ. Winning the heart is not for the lazy parent. It will require more than finger snaps and quick words. We need to get off our phones and get involved.

Desperate for our own need of God’s grace and strength, we must move toward our children with the goal of a changed heart. It is, after all, the heart that produces the words we speak and the behaviors we show. Jesus once said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil (Matthew 12:34-35).” Whatever is on the inside is what we are going to see happening on the outside. This is true when we make a table out of wood or make a man out of a boy. We must start with the heart.

Here’s some good news: Jesus can transform any heart. As parents and grandparents, let us first ask God to change our own hearts. Then, let’s move toward our children with the hope of the gospel!