((from Jessica, subbing in for Natalie as she and her family grieve the loss of her mother-in-law))
When I think back over the many soothing and healing words that have been spoken to me over the course of my life, my memory drifts to a morning (three years ago) when my son offered some of the most mercy-dripping words I’ve ever heard and so desperately needed.
Though I wish I couldn’t so easily recall that morning, I can.
I was a newly minted mom of two, and my 3-year-old son was not only pushing the boundaries of obedience that day, but he was also learning the ropes of peeing in the potty. I emphasize the location of in.
And though I wish I could suggest that I only “a little bit” lost my temper with him, the reality was, I had lost it a lot. Like I yelled. Like REALLY yelled. Like not just a “raise-your-voice-with-a-little-edge-to-get-their-attention” kind of yell and not just an “I-am-using-my-serious-mom-voice-so-you-had-better-heed-my-words-now” voice.
This was a “mommy-has-had-enough-of your-continual-whining-and-refusal-to-obey-and-now-you-just-peed-on-the-floor-because-you-were-throwing-a-fit-and-not-paying-attention” yell.
A yell that (no joke) made him fall off the potty.
A yell that caused him to cover his little, violated ears.
A yell that made him immediately cry.
And a yell that resulted in a sore throat for the remainder of my day (no exaggeration).
Umm…yeah. THAT kind of yell.
But why do I remember that morning in the bathroom with the disobedient child and the pee-soaked carpet? Why do I remember that morning and that yell so well?
It’s not because I had never lost my temper before, because I had. And it’s not because I had never made my child cry because of my tone, because I had.
No, I remember that morning because I remember my son’s gracious response to my ugly sin.
REWIND to that morning…
After repeatedly screaming, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” at the top of my lungs, I stormed to the kitchen to retrieve the anti-bacterial cleaner. And just as fast as I had fumed and blown my gasket, the guilt and remorse came even faster.
How stupid and careless of me!
How ridiculous and immature of me!
How unkind and impatient of me!
For goodness sake, how absolutely UNLOVING of me!!
Dragging my guilt and shame behind me, I walked back to the bathroom. And before I even had the chance to ask for forgiveness from the very same mouth that had just spewed loud ugliness, he uttered the following words:
“Mommy, I love you.”
And as I type out those four, little words, I weep now like I did then.
In all honestly, I had a hard time trusting what my ears were hearing. Did he say what I think he did?
Did he really respond to my UNLOVING yell with a LOVING response?
Why wasn’t he crying in a heap? Why didn’t he yell back? Why wasn’t he giving me the cold shoulder?
Why didn’t he just give me what I DESERVED?!
Kneeling on the bathroom floor in front of my son, my eyes filled with tears as I grabbed hold of his little hands and said the only words I could speak in that moment, “Thank you, buddy.”
I was completely humbled; what a gift of undeserved grace.
For the second time, I opened my mouth to ask for my son’s forgiveness but this time, my Savior interrupted my heart with the following six words:
“Jessica, I STILL love you, TOO.”
I just sat there and cried.
I didn’t need a reminder of the wrong I had done. I wouldn’t forget.
I didn’t need my sin rubbed in my face. I was already rubbing.
I didn’t need those things because I’m already really good at all those “R” things.
In that moment, what I needed more than anything was a GIFT OF GRACE.
In fact, I needed to hear those undeserved, loving words…not once, but twice that morning.
After a few hugs, several apologies, some more tears, and a shared prayer of confession, we left the bathroom and continued on with our morning. And when I say, “we continued,” we did just that. No reminders, no rubbing, no rebuking… my sweet son graciously let it go.
On that morning, God so clearly used my son to bring to life the words of Psalm 103:10-12.
“He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
I don’t recount this moment with pride, and I certainly don’t remember this moment with fondness. Not. At. All.
But here’s what I do recall when I think back to that morning…
God used my son to extend a piece of His grace toward me in a moment where I’d sinned and when I needed it the most.
And though God takes the sin of His children seriously, sin doesn’t get the final say.
As I replay this moment and dwell on His grace, I can’t help but hum the sweet, old refrain to one of my favorite hymns.
“Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!”