"No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6
I was raised with a focus more on God than on Jesus. I imagined God like most kids do: extremely tall, with flowing robes and a long white beard. He was up in Heaven, on a throne, far, far away.
The exposure I had to Jesus was primarily His passion and crucifixion. The artwork hanging in my childhood home showed the drops of blood He sweated during His agony in the Garden, and the open and bleeding wounds all over His body as He hung on the cross. The messages were always that God was watching and judging, and Jesus was always bleeding and suffering for my sins. Those messages are true, but they are not the whole story.
Now as an adult, I've come to know Jesus as the Good Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to go after the one missing, the man who challenges the teachers of the law and Pharisees to examine their own consciences before casting the first stone at the sinning woman, and the friend who washes the feet of His own disciples, as He came to serve, rather than be served.
I know that boundaries, rules and consequences are critical tools to use when raising children. It was the stern God and the suffering Jesus that intimidated me into staying on the straight and narrow (more or less). But now it's the compassionate Jesus that inspires me to try again every day to live out His message.
Although it comes naturally for me to parent with a watchful eye, using boundaries, rules, and consequences as my tools, I need to balance out my toolbox by also parenting like Jesus. I want to be so invested, so compassionate, and so humble that my kids are motivated to make the right choices because of my example. I want to ingest Jesus and His teachings so deeply that His grace fills me up to the point of spilling out and onto my children. Like we are drawn towards a fire on a cold night, I want my kids to be drawn towards the warmth of Jesus' love radiating out of me. I want my words and actions to inspire my kids to want to try harder, to want to be closer to God. Like Jesus is the pathway through whom we meet God, I want to be the pathway through whom my kids meet Jesus.