My last nerve was exposed and raw, just waiting for a spark that would ignite it like the fuse on a stick of dynamite. When my daughter entered the room in tears, the match was lit.
We’ve been in the middle of rehearsals for a theatrical production and the choreography wasn’t turning out as she’d hoped. The grand visions in her head simply weren’t panning out in the sphere of reality and as a result, she felt stuck and unable to continue.
This sweet, smart, sensitive daughter of mine is my polar opposite in many ways. Most notably, she is emotionally expressive, while I am not. My daughter and I have a major disconnect in this area, and as I said, on this particular day I was already operating with the last nerve ready to be tweaked.
I snapped. Cold and logical words that might be motivational only to a Vulcan flew from my lips. Even as they left my mouth, I knew they would not be helpful and that they would, in fact, be hurtful.
I spoke them anyway.
As the words struck their mark, my daughter’s face crumpled. Her arms came up to cover her head as if to protect herself from a physical blow. A wail rose from behind her barrier, wounded and uncontainable. My son stepped in, shielded his sister, and strongly suggested that I leave and let him deal with it. I exited the room in defeat, knowing he was right to send me away.
Grace has been described as unearned, unmerited favor. It is central to the Christian faith, this notion that though we’ve done nothing to earn or deserve the favor of an almighty God, through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we are gifted with that favor anyway. Jesus ended the separation between us and our Father, opening the door to an intimate, life-altering relationship with Him. Beautiful, yes?
Now I’ve long prided myself on being a “grace mama”. When my kids do something deserving of punishment, I actively find times to extend grace instead. These are great opportunities to show our children grace in action, mercy in a situation where they clearly deserve wrath.
But teaching this concept that is the heart of our faith goes deeper than that, as I was soon to find out.
My daughter had retreated to her room. I knew that we needed to get her past this mental roadblock so she could continue working. Readying myself to try to reach her on a more emotional level, I sat on the bed with her and held her for a time. When her tears subsided, I sat back and told her I was sorry. Eyes downcast, she nodded. I knew she would accept my apology, but my words were having little impact because, frankly, they were uttered without much thought, offered for the purpose of ‘getting the job done’, rather than from a broken and contrite spirit.
In a brief moment of clarity I saw that my apology was anemic, weak with my own internal justification of my actions, and on some level she felt that. I had run roughshod over her in a vulnerable moment and a flurry of questions then blazed through my mind. Did it matter to me that I had done that? Do I see her as a valuable person with her own strengths and weaknesses, or am I so caught up in mothering that I forget she’s my sister in Christ? Do I grieve over hurting her? Or is my justification more important?
Humbled, I tilted her head up, looked into her soft, hazel eyes and apologized from my heart. With sincerity, respect, and mama-love. She could chose to forgive, or not. I was offering her the opportunity to extend grace to me, and I realized I’d never really given her that. Most of my apologies to my children are under-girded with explanations for my actions, teachable moments of how to not make mommy blow up. How not to act in the future.
But sometimes we mamas are the ones in the wrong, yes? Do we give our children the teachable moment of being able to extend grace freely when they have been wounded?
As shame washed over me for hurting this precious, lovely child, she saw my sincerity. Her eyes began to water once more and the defensive walls that had guarded them only moments before melted away. She fell into my arms once more, offering forgiveness, and my mama heart felt whole once more.
For perhaps the first time, I was feeling the true heart of grace: a relationship fully restored.
The very best way to understand the concept of grace is to actively experience both sides of it, receiving it when we are guilty, and extending it when others are. I’m not sure who learned more that day, me or my daughter, but I am humbled and grateful for the lesson.
As we approach Easter, may we ponder this core tenet of our faith. Grace. Unearned, unmerited favor. May we marvel at the mercy and love of our Father and may we look for opportunities to extend this marvelous truth to the young brothers and sisters in Christ that we have the privilege to parent and mentor!
“Indeed, everything is for your benefit, so that grace, extended through more and more people, may cause thanksgiving to increase to God’s glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:15, HCSB)
Grace and peace,
Featured image by David Pereiras at bigstockphoto.com