I eavesdropped on a conversation the other day. I didn’t mean to, but it was impossible to ignore the exchange between a screaming toddler and his mom. She kept raising her voice while hugging him, as if to muffle her little howling hustler, but he wasn’t having any of it. He was mad, insecure, motivated and frustrated – all at the same time. His wonderful no-nonsense, clear-communication, loving mother completely ignored the many glances from by-passers and focused on her uncrowned prince charming, who obviously had inherited her gift for clear communication.
“I peeeeeed my paaaants!”
“Yes, you did. Why didn’t you go to the bathroom?”
“I didn’t haaaaave to. But then I did and I peeeeed my pants.”
“Oh well, it’s only a drop. It will dry.”
“Nooooo! I want new pants.”
“Well, if we go home, we’ll miss the movie.”
“NOOOO! I want to see the movie!”
“But we don’t have time. You’re gonna have to wear these pants if we’re going to the movies.”
Bawling. Coughing. Mucus mayhem.
Sighs. Susceptible signs of surrender.
“Alright. So, we’ll pop into this store and get you a new pair of pants.”
“But then you have to stop. No more crying. We’re getting pants. Come on.”
End of howling. Small whimper remains.
“Stop it. Enough with the crying. We’re getting pants.”
Nose-wipe. Kiss on cheek. Enter store.
“But now that we have to buy new pants, we’re not getting snacks at the movies.”
Cue howling. The stomping of feet. The red-faced rage.
“I want CAAAANDY!”
“Well, we can’t have it all. Now mommy has to spend money on buying pants, and that leaves no money for candy.”
“Candy costs nooooothing!”
“Yes, it does. We don’t have enough money for it all.”
“No, candy doesn’t cost money! You just swipe your caaaaaard!”
I hid behind a rack at the store as they passed me, I didn’t want them to see me in stitches. It was a moment of everyday magic and I loved every second of it. My heart went out to this sweaty mom who passed me with a wild “don’t talk to me or I’ll split you wide open”-look in her eyes. I had been there. Done that. Got the new pair of toddler-sized pants old to prove it.
We’ve all been there
I was thinking back to a day when I picked up my son in kindergarten. As we were driving home, he was chatting away about his upcoming birthday. The soon-to-be 5-year-old in the back seat rattled on about what kind of cake he wanted, which invitations to send, what to do and how his guests would enjoy his party. I paid attention to my brown-eyed wonder in the rearview mirror.
When he paused to breathe, I asked him:
“What gifts do you want for your birthday?”
“Oh, not much”, he said, smiling confidently.
I didn’t buy it. The year before he had spent a total of 10 seconds drawing something unrecognizable to his sister, saying: “If I give this to her, maybe she’ll get me a TV for Christmas!” Yeah, right!
“So, not much, huh? What is it that you want for your birthday?”
“Just a VISA card. Then I can get what I want for myself. You won’t have to buy anything.”
Smarty-pants. Try explaining the mechanisms of a debit card to a know-it-all wisdom-incarnated strapped in the back seat. Let me know when you find out how to do it. (It was nice knowing you.)
The unexpected insight
I’ve had these same conversations with the Father more times than I care to remember. I have been howling, yelling, bargaining, stomping my feet and demanding my will to be done.
I confess that I have disregarded his grace, exploited his kindness, and blamed him for my own shortcomings. In my ignorance, I have falsely accused him of wrongdoing, neglect, even abandonment. My heavenly Father, who wants me – his daughter and heir to the kingdom – to be fulfilled in him, has endured my anger and frustration, my hopelessness and distrust, my lack of faith and surrender.
Not because I wanted to hurt him, but because my toddler mind didn’t know better, even as an adult.
I have failed to value his sacrifice, even though he gave his only begotten son to take my place on the cross. Rarely does my heart break for what breaks his. I have not welcomed my savior when he came as a beggar, a stranger, a refugee.
And still I think I know it all, demanding new pants and candy. And a VISA card. Just to make sure that I can get whatever I want whenever I want it.
Time for reflection
As I walk through lent I acknowledge that I’m dust. But in him, I have it all.
For you have experienced the extravagant grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that although he was infinitely rich, he impoverished himself for our sake, so that by his poverty, we could become rich beyond measure.
2 Cor 8:9, TPT
Lent shows me the abyss between what I deserve and what I have been given.
And suddenly, I get a glimpse of grace.