A few weeks ago, I took my brood to the park. Park = FUN, and this bright spring day was no different. Then, too soon (as usual), it was time to leave. I aways expect a moderate amount of moaning and groaning when that announcement is made, but most of my children are old enough to grasp the concept of time and are reasonable enough to understand that goodbye doesn’t mean forever, and that the park will, in fact, remain where it is until such time as they can return.
Not so on this day.
On this day, the almost-four-year-old was not having any of it. With a ferocity welling up from the depths of his tunnel-vision, he could not be reasoned with. It was getting late. We had no food with us. He was filthy and needed a bath. He was tired. Sleeping on the ground in the dark was highly overrated. Trust me, child. Trust me! It’s time to go!
Buckled into his car seat and desperately unhappy, he flung epithets at me all the way home:
“I do NOT love you!”
“I want a new mommy!”
“I want to live in different house! Not with you!”
“I will NEVER love you!”
I am not the mother of an enormous brood for nothing. I have earned my stripes through many battles that have torn at my soul. I have been in the trenches and lived to tell the tale. Normally, this tirade would have made me roll my eyes and sigh, knowing that it would pass in time and reason would return (as much reason as can be expected from such an age, anyway). This incident, however, struck me as uniquely unfair.
I had just taken him to the park, for pete’s sake! I didn’t have to do it, I could have sat at home and read a book! I could have sedated him with dvds and never shown him the brightness of the clear blue sky and the joy of a slick plastic slide! Instead of being thanked for my generosity, I was being maligned for my cruelty.
Arriving at home, I unstrapped him from his seat and carried him under my arm to his bed. There I told him he could sit until he (I) calmed down. He was still crying. He was still mad. But as I sat quietly with him, suddenly his manner changed. Perhaps it was sheer exhaustion. He looked at me through his tear-filled eyes and said with no small amount of desperation Mommy! I don’t want to be bad anymore!
And that’s when I saw myself.
Raging against God for taking away things that had come from Him in the first place. Angry that I hadn’t had enough time with them. Unable to trust that He knows best. Incapable of believing that His timing is always perfect. Refusing to accept that He has a better plan. Clapping my hands over my ears as He said let Me feed you, let Me clean you up, let Me give you rest; trust Me. I love you. I will make all things beautiful in their time. Trust Me!
I am the child, not quite four years old. I have flung epithets at God. I have raged against the restraints He has placed on me to keep me safe.
And I will probably do it time and again until I reach Home and can be safely set free.
Sitting with my child, I felt enormous pity welling up inside of me. He could not control himself; he didn’t have the power at that moment. Instead of being mad, I was able to respond with mercy. He wanted to be good, he truly did. Raging is so exhausting. He longed for peace and didn’t know how to get it.
So I gave it to him. I took him in my arms and forgave him. I told him I loved him with an everlasting love, no matter how many times he rejected me. That there was nothing he could do that would make me hate him back. That he could yell and scream but it didn’t change the fact that I was his mommy and he was my child and I would give my life for him.
And that’s when I saw God.
My response to my son was a mere shadow of His response to His crippled creation. If I felt sorrow for my son’s helplessness, how much more does He look on us? Not in condemnation, not in consternation, not in judgement or wrath, but with a pity and compassion so all-encompassing that we can only grope around the edges of it. He knows we are dust. And when we ourselves grasp the depths of our own dustiness, God counts it among our greatest victories.
Because it is only then that we can extend that same mercy and grace to others.
Psalm 103:13 & 14