He informed me that he had not gotten a sticker that day because he had been caught eating mulch on the playground with another boy.
Another day when he climbed into the car after church he confessed tearfully that he had been given a time out during Sunday School because he was goofing around during the Bible story.
Then there was the time we got our seat belts on and he let me know that he had gotten a ‘little wild’ at the end of the school day and had to walk laps during recess.
And I can’t forget the time he informed me that he had kicked another boy where it counts (shall we say) and then lied about it to his teacher.
Most mornings before my children are released from my care into the hands of another, I try to remind them that they are little ambassadors for Christ as well as representatives of our family and that it is important for them to do good, respect well, obey quickly, and listen attentively.
I will even often pray a blessing over them before they race to their respective classrooms.
So you can imagine that when my child comes home from school and tells me the stories of failed attempts to listen, obey, and be respectful – my flesh gets a teeny tiny bit mad.
Probably because I know the depths of wickedness in my own heart and how easy it is to fall into the trap of judging another mama based on her child’s behavior.
My kid was making me look bad.
(As I typed that sentence I felt my computer giving me a disgusted look.)
Truth is, my anger is linked to my own pride and sinful desire to have people think I am perfect and can produce obedient, excellent children.
So when I get angry at my kids after they confess their sins to me, I am really just reflecting ME and my selfishness instead of the sweet grace He tenderly, patiently, and lovingly extends to us every. single. day.
God has been working on me in this area.
He has helped me to see a few things more clearly – the first being the precious gift that it is to have a son who doesn’t want to keep secrets.
Because if I want to encourage my child to be a TRUTH SEEKER – to not be content in the withholding of his wrongdoings – to openly confess and experience the freedom of a life lived in truth-soaked light, then I have to get better at responding with grace.
And God KNOWS I want my boy to be able to confess his struggles to me as a teenager so if I am putting him down, punishing him, and making him feel bad now in his openness – it’s looking pretty certain that he won’t trust me with that info in the future.
What does the ‘grace response’ look like, then?
When Happy Buddy gets in the car and rattles off his behavior, instead of scary eye-balling him in the rearview mirror and saying things like, “How could you do that?!” or “That was a horrible choice!” or “No dessert for you tonight, young man!” or “You know better than that!”
I listen quietly and then carefully and gently ask questions.
“What made you think mulch would taste good?” (I admit, we got a good laugh out of this one.)
“Why was it hard for you to sit through the Bible story?”
“Why did you feel you had to lie to your teacher?”
“Would you want someone to kick you in the jimmy?”
Asking questions helps us reflect a little more on the poor choice so that hopefully in the future he will be a bit more discerning and a bit less impulsive.
And then I get the opportunity to say, “Thank you, son, for sharing this with me. Nothing you do will make me love you less. You are a precious boy. Now let’s pray and ask God to help you make a better choice next time.”
This same response works in our marriages too.
I remember one time the hubs and I were at a busy store with the boys and he motioned to the woman in front of us wearing some incredibly form-fitting work out pants. He whispered to me, “Let’s walk a little faster so we can get past this woman. It’s hard to not be tempted to look.”
As a woman who struggles with weight and body issues and the general feeling that I will never be pretty enough (again, all about me), I can take his honest, precious plea as an opportunity to get angry.
I could say things like, “Why can’t you control yourself better?” or “Why am I not enough for you?!” or “Are you saying I am FAT?!”
But if I want him to remain in open communication with me and help him feel affirmed in his honorable desire to be pure, then I have to respond as Jesus would.
“Thank you for sharing that with me, my love. You are a good man.”
And then I may or may not have grabbed his hand and bolted so fast out of that store you would have thought there was a fire.
How do you respond when your husband confesses that he spent too much money this month? Or when he calls to say he won’t be home for dinner? Or when he realizes that he forgot to get the one thing you asked him to go to the store for?
The grace response consists of 2 things – the first is that it recognizes that YOU are a sinner ALSO in need of a Savior.
The second is that God is loving, forgiving, compassionate, kind, and good to YOU, so now you get the opportunity EVERY DAY to be a reflection of Him to your people.
Which will hopefully spread to the world and inspire less irrational kicking where it counts, less judging other mamas, deeper, richer relationships with our children and spouses, glory to God, and more grace, grace, grace.
A few Sundays ago we sang this line, “Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee.”
I like the sound of that.
– Julie 🙂