Raising children is about transformation. Children transform physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. We can list these areas out separately as a way to talk about them, but they all are intertwined. The child as a whole person transforms.
"Regular" kids, special-needs kids, and adopted kids all go through this and along the way it transforms the parents as well. Having a special-needs daughter made us prioritize life differently than we would have otherwise. We believe this impacted Jacob, our "regular" kid, for the positive. Likewise, our adopted twins highlight the same need to prioritize life but in different ways. God is using this to shape our family as well.
The transformation the twins need is the same as us all, but it may seem more pronounced. That is to say, they don't hide it as well as we do. When they came to us, the kind of counseling they had received was simply behavior modification. Do what is right, get a reward. Do what is wrong, get consequences. I find it ironic that secular counselors accuse Christians of legalism when we utilize Scripture to raise our children. There is a lot secular counseling based on a legalistic, pragmatic framework. Admittedly, there are many legalistic Christians, but they are misusing Scripture, not utilizing it. Scripture tells us that a transformation in the heart leads to a transformation in behavior.
What can bring about this real transformation then? Paul wrote, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." (Rom. 1:16) The gospel is the power of God! God made a creation with amazing power in it. The sun boils day and night at temperatures we scarcely understand. God made gravity, a force strong enough to hold spinning galaxies together but can keep a butterfly on our planet's surface without crushing it! Yet, it is the gospel that is the power of God.
So we don't simply think this is just hyperbole, Paul later wrote in this letter to Rome that the gospel will free all of creation, the galaxies and butterflies, from its futility and fallen state. The gospel transforms everything and makes all things new! If this is true, can it not transform our kids? Can it not transform us, our mind, heart, & soul? In fact, that is where this letter ultimately takes us. We are not to be conformed to this world but be transformed in the renewing of our mind. The gospel transforms our thinking, our relationships, and our choices. It transforms us.
Our twins do not hide their need of this transformation as well as the rest of us do. We hide our failures and needs from others and call it sophistication. We pretend to have it all together. We pretend to be self-sufficient and well-adjusted, but the reality is we are scared children who are afraid to truly trust the Father. Even our "travel mugs" are really sippy cups clad in stainless steel to make them appear more sophisticated! We need transformation, but like many orphans, we do not trust the Father enough to receive it. When we realize that God loved us so much that He died on the cross for our sin, then we can remember that same love lies behind His commands.
We are learning that the best way to teach our kids this trust is to be trustworthy and consistent. Over time that is helping them learn trust. We are also learning to be transparent, which is easy to remember if we remember that the word "parent" is in "transparent." Kids need to see beyond us to the ultimate Father in heaven. We have to be honest about our failures with them and be willing to ask for their forgiveness when we fail them. We need to be openly reliant upon the Father, not fiercely independent. They need to see that our commands to them are based on love (what's best for them) and are not random or based on our personal preferences or pet peeves.
The gospel can transform our families. Kids are another way God shows us both the need and the remedy. The gospel is the power of God and, as Peter wrote, this divine power grants us everything we need for life and godliness.