In AnnVoskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, she says this. "All is grace." And I believe that's true. How could I not? I believe God is good and he is sovereign and so, whatever situation I find myself in gives me an opportunity to see his grace at work in my life.
It's just that, sometimes, it's easier to see than others.
Not too long ago, I had a rough day with Ava. Not a little hard. Not some difficult moments. It was rough...from
beginning to end.
When, finally, she was sent to bed
early, for coloring on the couch with a marker, (why???????) I climbed
the stairs to wearily tuck her in and repeat the traditions that have
become bedtime routine around here. Sing an old hymn, pray with her,
give her a hug and a kiss before turning out the lights. None of which I am too keen on doing when a child has been sent to bed for
misbehavior. And I know how that sounds, by the way. I'm not proud of
it. But, it's honest.
When I got there, she was
already close to tears and my heart melted. For all her stubbornness and
impulsive bad decisions, that child feels our disappointment deeply. I
told her I didn't like it when she disobeyed. That I didn't enjoy
punishing her and that it was really hard for us to have a fun
day together when she was disobedient. I told her how much more we
could enjoy the day if she would just obey. And, with her lip trembling
she said to me, "I can't mommy." "You can't what?" I asked. "I can't
obey and (fully crying now) I don't want to be Ava."
The accusing, mean-spirited part of my brain spoke up lightning fast. Oh where have I gone wrong?! How can I have a child who wishes she was someone different?! Does she even know how much I love her?! How much I love every bit of her personality? I. Am. Failing.
tried to tell her how special she was. How much I loved her. "You're
special, too, mommy." she cried quietly. " And I don't want to be Ava. I
want to be you." I hugged her tight, with tears running down my face and told her I didn't want her to be me. That I was so glad she was Ava and that God had made her so special. We tickled and giggled and both promised to have a better day tomorrow.
And when I turned off the lights, she was smiling again.
I walked downstairs with a heavy heart, worrying myself silly that my child had no idea how wonderful she was. That I had done some irreparable damage that would affect her forever.
But, all is grace. And I know that now.
So, I took a breath and began to thank God for that moment. And here's what came to mind: I'm thankful for...a child who knows right from wrong and aches when
she disappoints, a child who's very words speak scripture to me and
mirror my own heart (Romans 7:19, "For what I do is not the good I want
to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing."), a
chance to tell her how special she is and how glad I am that God made me her mommy, the unbelievable understanding that she sees
me as an example of obedience and good decisions and the grace she
obviously has for me, the power of touch...of tickles, and hugs, and
kisses, the promise of new mercies every morning...for both of us.
In the midst of that, I also realized that Ava's response to her own disobedience is not all that
different from my own. "I've done it again, God. I just can't seem to
get it right. I wish I wasn't so full of me. I wish I was more like you." And I realized that maybe...just maybe, instead of seeing her response as insecure and full of self-doubt, I could see it as an open hand, ready to receive grace. Because receiving grace always begins with the
acknowledgement that our need is beyond our own ability to meet and that
there is something far better to cling to than who WE are. That
reaching for Him, replacing US with Him, requires an open hand...and the
realization that, "I don't wanna be who I am anymore."
And maybe starting to learn that at three years old isn't such a bad thing. Even though that train of thought wouldn't win me any awards in pop psychology, I'm pretty sure it's important when trying to raise kids who will follow Jesus. Because I know that, at least in my own life, the kind of humility that has most often led me to transforming grace began with a trembling lip and words like, "I can't seem to obey...and I don't wanna be who I am anymore. Change me, Lord."