A Grace-filled Home: 5 Ideas, with Dane Ortlund
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Dane OrtlundDane C. Ortlund (PhD, Wheaton College) serves as senior pastor of Naperville Presbyterian Church in Naperville, Illinois. He is the author of Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers and Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners. Dane and his wife, Stacey, have five children.
Want ideas for a grace-filled home? Bestselling author Dave Ortlund offers real-life ways to marinate your family in God’s scandalous, subversive kindness.
A Grace-filled Home: 5 Ideas, with Dane Ortlund
Dane: You know one thought comes to mind here. We’re talking about grace in the home. What about this? Physical affection, lots of it, all of the time. Someone said to me recently, “You sure hug your kids a lot.” [Laughter] I was like, “YES!” The phenomenon I have discovered when they hit fifth grade--
Dane: --they stop acting like they want it.
Dane: I go in for the hug. Fourth grade they hug back. Fifth grade they go limp. [Laughter]
Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: Alright, today is a fun day.
Ann: It is fun.
Dave: We’re going to talk about how to apply grace in the home. I have no idea [Laughter] and so I’m--
Ann: Oh you know
Dave: –going to let you guys talk about it.
Ann: Who’s you guys?
Dave: You and Dane. We’ve got Dane Ortlund back in the studio. We’ve been talking about grace, Surprised by Jesus, Gently and Lowly. I look at you and I think you’re the grace-giving, grace expert.
Dane: Hmm, talk to my boys.
Dave: –and Stacy
Dane: –talk to my boys. [Laughter]
Dave: I was going to say Stacy.
Ann: Stacy, Stacy’s your wife of how many years?
Ann: She would say that.
Dave: I think she would say that.
Ann: I do too.
Dave: Especially if you take her to a nice restaurant tonight. [Laughter] It might earn you a few points. You’ve been a dad now 16 years?
Dane: I suppose you’re right, 16 years.
Dave: Your oldest is sixteen.
Dane: Yes. Oldest is sixteen. Five kids, sixteen down to six, four boys and a girl.
Dave: Alright, we’ve been talking the last couple days about grace and you’ve been Surprised by Jesus had a lot to do about His heart of grace. We thought it might be fun to come up with five ideas for a grace filled home. Ann and I talked a little about it so we thought if you can give us three, we’ll give two. Or if you can give us seven, we’ll give zero. [Laughter] Either way, but let’s have a conversation about it. What’s the first one that came to your mind Dane?
Dane: The first one that comes to my mind is something that you guys have, that you said earlier this weekend, namely--
Dave: –it had to be me. [Laughter]
Dane: –I’m pretty sure it was Ann. Actually, now I’m positive it wasn’t you Dave. [Laughter] Yes, Ann you said it, “If we’re not finding it in the Word ourselves we won’t have anything to pass on.” First things first. I need the grace of God like a glow in my heart, not merely true doctrine on paper. Not less than that, but actually a glow. Not only the light of grace but the warmth of grace alive within me. Then the overflow of that is what others are picking up and feeding on. That’s the kind of home that I want.
Ann: Hmm, that’s good.
Dave: I mean when you hear that, what do you think?
Ann: I think, “Amen.” It’s really hard to do it.
Dave: What I think is, “Amen,” and I feel work. I feel like, “Do the work.” Which means open the Word. Again, it isn’t like this magical vitamin, “Kapoof,” and you get it. When I immerse, and I’m sure you feel the same thing. Every time I open the Word, I mean every time, there is something that opens my eyes to the character and the heart of God, usually through Christ that I hadn’t seen or understood a year ago.
Dane: That’s right, absolutely true. I would say through the Word, and through your life, and through friendships, and through your local church. John Newton’s last words, “I am a great sinner, but I have a great Savior.” Okay, I want those two twin truths, which are mutually reinforcing, to be alive in my heart. I’m going to see it in the scripture mainly, but also I’m going to see–I just lost my temper with my eight year old. Again. I need to go make that right. Guess what, I just got a little more traction with this truth, “I’m a great sinner.” Therefore, take fresh refuge in, “but I have a great Savior.” Let those two truths come together and be spilling out.
Ann: I think that right there is what has drawn me to Jesus more than anything. As I was parenting [Laughter] it brought out so much in me that was so sinful. I just remember thinking, “I had no idea I was this angry. I had no idea I was this impatient. I had no idea I was this judgmental of other people.” It just confirmed in me like, “Oh the grace has to start,” exactly as you said Dane. It starts with me being with Jesus and Him reminding me, “I’ve paid that for you.”
Dane: Yes, excellent.
Ann: And He, this is what’s so mind blowing, as you’ve said, “He’s cheering for me.”
Ann: When I go to Him and say, “Lord I messed up again, like how could I lose my temper?” “Oh Ann, I’m with you.--
Ann: I love you.” He doesn’t condone my sin, but He’s forgiven it. So that changes everything.
Dave: Yes, and I would just add as I’m sitting here listening to you, she lives this.
Dave: I’ve watched you 16 years now, one year Bible, every time I walk into the kitchen there you are with the Word of God, many times on your knees, hands raised worshiping God, and you are a grace giver. You’ve given me grace I do not deserve. You model--
Ann: –Oh Dave but I didn’t. You know how bad I was.
Dave: Just say, “Thank you.”
Ann: Thanks hon. [Laughter]
Dave: I’m trying to give a compliment here.
Ann: Thank you.
Dane: How right you are Dave. [Laughter]
Dave: I have felt so loved by you and it’s gotten better.
Dane: Praise God.
Ann: Me too Dave
Dave: Like I’ve gotten worse and worse.
Ann: You have loved me and have given me--
Dave: –and so that’s one and we’re already--
Dane: You guys have reminded me of another. I mean Ann you were just saying, when we’re losing our temper, when we keep screwing up. I’m thinking, “Okay, I just lost my temper, again.” I need to own that to my child.
Dane: In a redemptive way, and in a healthy way. But if I screw up, and they know I’ve screwed up, and then I walk through the kitchen acting like nothing has happened, that has to have a hardening effect on them. But if I will pull them aside and say, “You know I really lost it there, didn’t I? You know if I could do that over again, I would handle that differently. I am so sorry.” No, “I’m sorry if you felt,” that’s no apology, that’s an “I’m sorry that you’re so weak,” no, no. That’s an insult clothed as an apology. “I am so sorry. Will you please forgive me? Can we try again?” You know, or whatever makes sense in your family’s culture.
They’re thinking, okay, we don’t all have to walk around in this home putting up a front or like a bubble that might burst at any moment if I screw up. We’re all going to make mistakes and we’re going to let there be free flowing requests for forgiveness and extending it. We are basically taking the gospel of grace that we teach them in our scripture around the dinner table, we’re taking the gospel and we’re flopping it on its side. Therefore we’re making them experience horizontally what we want them to believe vertically. So I believe that in order to grow modeling and doing this, apologizing when appropriate, regularly--
Dave: That’s big.
Dane: --to my kids
Dave: I coach high school football at the local high school for 10 years. One of thereasons I wanted to do it, I really had a passion to see boys become men and we had a chapel service, a public high school every Thursday night that I got to speak at. But my three sons were all going to go through there so I was not only getting to be a coach but get to be with my boys. As short as I can make this Dane, what happened in a playoff game we were pretty good, we won state title, we went to many playoff games. I get a flag--
Dane: Oh boy.
Dave: --from the ref, because a guy, we scored a touchdown on a guy, as our players handed the ball to the ref, took his knees out, eight yards back in the end zone, five seconds after a play, and they had been doing stuff the whole game. So the ref, the sideline ref standing right beside me, I go, “What was that?” He goes, “What?” and I go, “You’ve got to be kidding me, you’re not going to do anything about that?” He throws a flag on me. So the head coach comes over and he goes, “Dude, what did you say? You know I could get thrown out and not coach next weekend.” “I just said, ‘What was that?’” He goes, “Yeah, sure you did.” Well the next day, Saturday morning we’re watching film - the whole team, I’ve got 67 kids in there. Everybody thinks the coach-pastor--
Dave: because why would they throw a flag. So I get up in front of the team and I go, “I need to apologize. I need to be honest, I did not curse. I know that’s the rumor.” Even parents were saying, “Coach Wilson cursed.” I’d go, “I’d tell you if I did. I said something wrong, and I’m sorry and I should have never done that. We’ve told you kids never to do that and I own that.” I’ve had kids since then, decades later say, “I don’t remember a thing you coached, I remember that confession, that apology,” that is what our kids remember.
Dave: Such an important thing to do in a grace filled home.
Dave: Now Ann your turn. We’re talking about five things we want to fill our home with grace.
Ann: I think in looking back often in disciplining our kids, I’m the one who apologized more Dane. Dave, he would seldom fly off the handle. I would get--
Dave: No wait, I heard her say that I don’t apologize. [Laughter]
Ann: No, no, no, no. I’m sorry. You didn’t need to. [Laughter]
Dave: Oh, that’s what you mean.
Ann: No you didn’t need to.
Dave: Good recovery there.
Ann: –-because I’m the one that would usually blow up or get mad, or I would, in the way I would say this, I reacted much more often than responding with grace. I would hear something and I would just go crazy like, “What? Are you kidding me?” And then I would be blowing up and they’d be like, “Oh, here she goes.” And I was--
Dave: It was comical sometimes [Laughter] You got pretty hot sometimes.
Ann: –-probably, but I wish now a grace filled home, and not that we’ll ever do this perfectly. But I think now that I’ve grown in understanding the grace of the gospel, I would take a breath, and why would I be surprised they’re going to mess up? I’m going to mess up all the time. Take a breath, say a prayer, and try to respond rather than react to the situation. Because I think what I often did was - I was looking at their behavior, rather than looking at the heart--
Ann: –-and what was going on underneath.
Dane: Love that.
Ann: I think that one, when you turn to grace you go deeper into, “Why was I so concerned about their behavior and reacting?” I was reacting because I was afraid of people might think of me.
Ann: I was living in fear of what they might do in the long run and there’s not a trust in Jesus in that, and so to get to their hearts and say, “Tell me what’s going on,” you know just that feels like a grace filled home to me.
Ann: What do you think?
Dave: Yes, I was just thinking you know, one of the things Dane, about having adult kids is they come tell you these things [Laughter] that they didn’t like--
Dane: Oh thanks for giving me something to look forward to. [Laughter]
Dave: –-there you go. I mean that’s what one of our sons said, “You cared more about our behavior than about our heart.”
Ann: They said that to me.
Dave: That was a--
Ann: --that was a great word-
Dave: –-it was true. You know if you could stop for a second and instead of reacting say, “What would grace look like in this moment?” And respond that way.
Ann: What’s going on in their heart that would lead them to this action?
Dane: That’s right, yes.
Ann: And that’s hard, and as a parent, that’s where we need Jesus. Like, “Lord, calm my heart.”
Ann: I’m thinking of the Fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, and peace right there. Those three, if I could apply that in my parenting role--
Dave: –goodness, faithfulness,--
Ann: –that could change a lot.
Dave: Alright Dane, you have another thing you would bring into a grace filled home?
Dane: Sure, I’ll mention as we–I just want to mention amen to what you both were saying there. I think that’s really profound. I can change his actions; I can make his will bend. I can bend his will. “You will say, ‘I am sorry,’ to your father.”
Ann: Oh that’s good. [Laughter] Yes, yes.
Dane: “Sorry Bob.” [Laughter] Oh you’re just oozing love and respect there buddy, but how to get down to the heart. I’m still figuring out how to do that. But I just agree with you. You know one thought comes to mind right here. We’re talking about grace in the home. What about this? Physical affection, now just hang on here. Physical affection, lots of it, all the time.
Dane: Someone said to me recently, “You sure hug your kids a lot.” [Laughter] I was like, “YES!” And it’s boys and girls. I used to say girls and boys physical affection. The phenomenon I have discovered, three of my boys are fifth grade or older. When they hit fifth grade,--
Dane: –they stop acting like they want it.
Dane: So, I go in for the hug. Fourth grade, they hug back. Fifth grade they go limp. [Laughter]
Dane: “Uh, oh, you’re getting too close dad!” I’m wondering if actually they need it in that moment all the more. Physical affection, I mean psychiatrists can tell us neurologically and physiologically and psychologically certain things are clicking into place that will make them a more balanced 65-year-old one day.
Dane: When we are in healthy ways physically showing affection to our kids and showing them–I love the way that my friend Paul Zaul defines grace. He says, “Grace is one-way love. Law is two-way love.”
Ann: Ahh, that’s good.
Dane: Grace is one-way love, like a one-way road. When I go up to Chloe or Ben or Jeremiah and just sweep them up, you know give them just so many smooches on the cheek, they can’t stand it but they’re feeling loved. I remember feeling this from my dad who’s a very physically affectionate guy. They are experiencing one-way love which is grace. They did not go in doing something. I’ll hug them when they do something good too, but just because they were existing--
Dane: --They were playing checkers. [Laughter] They were eating cereal. They were walking in from school with their backpack and your heart explodes with love and affection so physically the only way to express that. I think they experience that as love and grace.
Ann: That’s so good because what happens is as teenagers when they go limp, we think, “They don’t need it anymore, [Laughter] they don’t want it anymore.” So we get our feelings hurt and so then we pull away.
Dave: We get passive. We pull back.
Ann: I was thinking about, I have sexual abuse in my background, my dad was very appropriate, abuse happened outside the home. I remember being eight years old saying to my dad as I was getting ready to go to bed and saying goodnight to everyone. I remember saying, “I’m probably too old now to kiss and hug you goodnight.” And he said, “You probably are,” and he meant it well and I remember I went into my bedroom and I was so sad. It was the only time that love was expressed physically in an appropriate way, the only time. I lost it from there on out.
Ann: So I look at that day and I think, “Uh.” I think a lot of parents are listening thinking and dads especially--
Ann: --because it’s easy for dads not to.
Dave: And I found now too Dane, I don’t know if you have, we had three sons. When they were little boys I crawled in bed with them, I’d hug them. We’d lay there and read Scripture together as five year olds, six year olds. When they were middle school, I remember feeling it was uncomfortable for me. My face is touching their face and there’s a beard there.
Dave: It was like, “Eww,” [Laughter] rather that, “Awesome.” And I want to say what you’re saying, “Every dad, break through that barrier.”
Dave: Hug your son, hug your daughter,--
Dave: --don’t ever stop. That’s a grace embrace.
Dane: It is. I’m 43. My dad is 72. To this day when I walk into my parent's home in Franklin, Tennessee, he gives me a big hug, maybe it lasts a few seconds too long. [Laughter] I’m kidding, it’s a real hug. Like most of the men at my church when I give them a hug, we’re both kind of like, “Let’s release really fast here [Laughter] before it gets awkward.” It’s kind of sad, isn’t it?
Dane: Give a good hug and like you’re communicating, “I have sincere affection for you.”
Dave: Mmm hmm
Dane: We’re embodied creatures, we’re not spirits only. God made us for that.
Dave: Yes, I was thinking there’s no hugs in law.
Dave: When you’re living by law,--
Ann: –you earn it.
Dave: –you get a hug if you obey,--
Dave: --but grace, the embrace of grace is a hug because--
Dane: Yes, yes, it is.
Dave: --because you’re made in the image of God.
Ann: You’re loved. That’s good. Okay, do you have one?
Dave: Prayer. Here’s what I mean by that. I decided the day our oldest son was born, and we’ve said this here many times, that I was going to fast one day a week, for my son.
Dave: I’m going to pray for his wife someday, and he’ll be a man of God someday. He’s a baby and I thought I’d do it for about a month. I’ve done it 36 years.
Dave: Pretty much every Friday, and when I did their weddings as dad and the pastor, I’m looking at this young woman thinking, “I’ve prayed for her before she was born.” Didn’t know her name so whatever. I thought if you commit your family and your kids to say, “I am going to, I’m going to be like war-like, battle-like in prayer for them, that’s bringing grace and love.
Dane: I love that.
Dave: Because it’s hard to pray for your kids and just be a law giving dad
Dave: –all the time.
Ann: That’s good.
Dave: If I’m connecting with the Father I’m receiving--
Dane: I love that.
Dave: –grace from the Father, I want to impart that to my kids. I think it’s really easy to pray little trite prayers for your kids rather than saying, “I’m going to battle for them.”
Dave: Ask God to do something really remarkable in them, all the days of their life.
Dane: “Thou art coming to a King, large petitions with thee bring. For His grace and power are such, none can ever ask too much.” I forget if that’s Newton or who that was but I love what you said Dave,” prayer is grace because you’re doing it on behalf of another.”
Dave: –right, right
Dane: They’re not praying for themselves, although they may be doing that too. You’re doing something on their behalf. That’s the very–that’s pure grace
Ann: It’s an act of grace.
Ann: That’s beautiful
Dave: I remember meeting with older dads when I was a young dad and I literally asked them to go to lunch because I saw their teenage kids and I thought, “If my son looks like that, acts like that, they must be doing something.” The thing I heard from many dads was, “I pray like crazy.”
Dane: I’m helped by that.
Dave: So that’s grace.
Dave: Alright, we’ve got a couple minutes left Dane. I guess we’re going to throw it to you.
Dane: Oh my goodness. Well I love what you both are saying. I guess one other thought that comes to mind is, and here I’m really thinking of the really young ones. You know the ones that are looking back at you out of their crib, or you’re feeding them and they’re flinging the mac ‘n cheese onto the floor. [Laughter] Understand that you as a mom, as a dad, are actually telling them what God is like. You are creating pathways in their mind and heart to be able to receive what God is like. So that as you rejoice in them and enjoy them - my dad puts it this way, “Our kids receive enjoyment as love.” If you enjoy them they receive that as love. If you just say, “I love you,” but then you enjoy other things or other people, they don’t actually believe that you love them.
Dane: If you enjoy them, if you smile at them, if you rejoice over them, they will grow up to believe that the love and grace of God is a believable reality. Because they got it in microcosm from an actual flesh and blood individual. It must be very hard for orphans or others who grow up, anyone who grows up in a cold home to really believe that there is a God, a Heavenly Father who’s not like my father. So, let’s be dads and moms who make the real God believable [Laughter] by the way we love them and the, the tone and culture we set in the home.
Ann: What a reassuring word for young moms and dads that are just hanging on by a thread.
Dane: We’ve been there.
Dane: You guys have been there.
Ann: We’re watching our kids do with their young ones. You feel like nothing matters, like I’m not doing anything--
Dane: It does feel that way, it feels futile.
Ann: --but I love that as your kids are looking into their eyes and
Ann: –enjoying them, and it’s an act of worship.
Ann: –and they’re seeing the love of a father and the love of a mother that’s beautiful.
Dave: You know Dane when you said that all I could see was a smile.
Dave: And I thought, “Grace is a smile.”
Dane: Bingo. Love that.
Dave: You know if they’re walking in and I don’t know, you’re mad and you’re frustrated, and if you can just muster up a smile--
Dave: –that’s what He’s doing when He sees us.
Dave: I know we don’t believe that--
Dave: –especially in the middle of our sin, He’s like, “I’m still smiling. I still love you. I still embrace you. I know what you’ve done and it doesn’t change anything,” It’s like, “How is that possible?” If we could communicate that
Ann: It’s the beauty of the gospel.
Dave: You do that
Ann: You do that
Dave: Oh, you do that [Laughter]
Dane: You both do that [Laughter]
Dave: I want to do it like you do, when our grandkids walk in–when Bryce walks in, when Olive walks in.
Ann: I may do it with them well but I don’t do it with you as well.
Dave: That’s true. [Laughter]
Ann: No, that’s a good action for me.
Dave: No, you do it with me, you really do.
Ann: Thanks Dane.
Dave: This has been rich.
Dane: It’s so fun talking to you
Dave: Thank you
Dane: Thank you
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Dane Ortlund on FamilyLife Today. You do it, right? No, I do it? Do you smile? Maybe you do it? [Laughter] Well Dane if he smiles or not his book is called Surprised by Jesus: Subversive Grace in the Four Gospels. We will send you two copies as our thanks when you partner financially with us at FamilyLifeToday.com. That’s one copy for you and one to give away. You can get your copies when you give at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 800-358-6329. That’s 800, ‘F’ as in family, ‘L’ as in life, and then the word TODAY.
So if you enjoyed the conversation with Dane today, I don’t know how you couldn’t have enjoyed that, you won’t want to miss the 2024 Love Like You Mean It® Marriage Cruise, where Dane is actually going to be one of our speakers for the whole week on the boat. You know our biggest sale is happening right now. You can join us next February in the Caribbean with many of your favorite Christian speakers and artists for a romantic week you won’t forget. I’ve actually been on this cruise before, there is absolutely nothing like it. I can guarantee that.
You can learn more at FamilyLifeToday.com, find out all the details about next February’s cruise. Okay so maybe you’re personally in a different situation. Maybe you’re in a blended family and you might be thinking, “Grace, what grace?” Well, that’s an important question. I invite you to join us tomorrow where you’ll hear from the expert Ron Deal on the grace and forgiveness God gives specifically in blended families. You won’t want to miss that.
Shelby: On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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