I want to learn you, grace.
This weekend I facilitated a retreat for parents of 8th graders. One of the parents asked how he could help his child learn about service. He knew there was an easier way than hauling him to a soup kitchen.
We discussed some options. I shared how our family gives to those in need.
It was nice.
I felt good about it.
Then, during my prayer time this morning, I was convicted of this fact:
I know nothing.
What happened? I read about grace.
I know of grace. I know the word. Grace is the love and the sweet mercy of God. He wants us to have this love and mercy and gives it to us with open hands. This gift is totally free and it’s unexpected. AND IT IS UNDESERVED. The best part? With it, we get to share in the divine life of GOD. And that’s the whole point.
Grace is a total gift of love, given to the undeserving.
I have experienced it. I have even dispensed it.
But I do not, by and large, live grace.
How do I live?
That’s easy. I live “My Life is Better Than Yours,” and “You Should Be More Like Me.”
I like this way of life.
It is comfortable and seems worth preserving.
That would be okay if that’s where it stopped, I mean, so what? I have purposefully chosen to live a certain way and I like it. But there’s more.
There’s a deep emotion amid us mothers. I saw it being stirred up at the retreat. Earnest moms told me of their fears. They wanted to protect their own kids from the bad kids in their town.
Those mamas didn’t want their children ruined by other kids. I saw and felt their fear.
I get that. There is too much crap floating around in this world and I am not about to throw my kids into it.
How can grace do its thing when we have erected so many walls and barriers?
Jesus gave us some odd commands.
- “Love others as you love yourself.”
- “Love others as I have loved you.”
- “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
I look at those commands and I instantly want him to define what he means by “love.”
Jesus, do you mean wave to others? Is that love? Is that enough? What do you mean by “LOVE OTHERS AS I HAVE LOVED YOU?”
And just WHO are the others? I have lots of ‘others’ in my home. And they are hard enough to love. Do I really have to love outside of my own?
I will just tell you straight up, I would like Jesus better if he acted like my version of God. He always rattles my cage.
There is a family that lives down the road. The three boys have different skin colors and a single mother. They run around the neighborhood, looking for a place to play. Their mother works the night shift.
They scare me.
When they came down to play (which was every day) they did not respect our bikes. They were tough. They talked tough and they acted tough.
I don’t do tough.
The Mother Tiger in me began to pace, wondering how to protect my cubs.
After the fifth day of them coming over and staying for hours, I asked the oldest, “Would you ask your mother if she is going to pay me for babysitting you guys?”
I never saw them again.
I felt an odd sense of pride. I had gotten rid of those rough hooligans. My kids were safe.
This morning I thought of those parents at the retreat, wanting to protect their children. They want to create a world of Jesus and safety and love. That is admirable. Yet. What would Jesus truly do? Not the Jesus we have conjured up, but the Real One of Love and Mercy.
My thoughts turned to the family down the street.
I imagined Jesus living in my neighborhood. What would He have done with those boys?
This is when I lose my composure and cry like a baby.
Because I know. I know that Jesus Christ does not do things like I do them. And HE WOULD HAVE LOVED.
He would have gently asked their name. He would have gotten to know each boy. He would have found out their favorite movies and toys and friends. He would have helped them with their homework. He would have fixed their bikes and taught them how to respect other people’s stuff. He would have discovered their favorite foods and made sure he had it available for them every so often. He would have greeted them with a big ol’ smile of love and acceptance every single time he saw them. And he would have ordered Pizza Hut and had it delivered for the struggling mother.
Now, a personal message to the strong families at Holy Name in Winfield:
Mitchell was home from seminary this weekend and I had a long conversation with him about your situation. I knew he would have a deeper understanding since he knows your kids from Totus Tuus.
The question: how to protect and show kids how to be grace-filled?
His response: you don’t throw the kids into the muck. If there are bad influences, you grow your kids strong in a safe environment. He said, “When a kid is in middle school they don’t have their own identity yet. That is formed by the people they are with and so it’s important to be careful about friends.”
This side message is from me, your local anti-porn mother: However, always be aware of the internet because porn is messing up so many kids and parents don’t know it. What that means, don’t let good kids from good homes gather around an unfiltered computer for an overnight. Parent with eyes wide open and filter/purify your electronic pathways.
One final thought, every single day we have lots of opportunities to model love and grace. I failed miserably in that particular instance, but by examining it, (I could have given them a popsicle and learned their names) I am gaining insight and understanding for the Next Time.
We are all on the road. And we are walking each other home.