My day had begun much like other days. I fueled my spirit with God’s word and a lively conversation with Him about all of my concerns, joys, sorrows and fears, followed by a heart-pumping workout to send me into my day with energetic vigor. These two things – time with God and physical exercise – breathe new life into my mind, body and soul. When my day begins this way, I feel ready for anything. And, like many days that get off to a powerful start, I grow weaker and less energetic as the day wears on. How often I have left my home and arrogantly looked out at the world around me with a daring sentiment: “BRING IT!” And how often I have found myself humbled by lunchtime!
This day was no different. I went into it feeling especially equipped to handle whatever my ever-changing tween was going to throw at me. I had been struggling to understand and “cure” her more recent behavior and attitudes and I had prayed for everything from patience and wisdom, to enough common sense not to be outsmarted by her (again). I was lifted up and I believed firmly that God was going to guide me through the mine field and that my daughter and I would come out unscathed, having “done it right” this time. I was ready to do God’s will, confident in His direction and fully equipped for the battle . . . and then she came home from school.
Everything I had pictured in my mind flew out the door when she came through it. As our brief conversation about school, friends and other topics moved to homework and practicing guitar, things quickly changed and progressed into a downward spiral. I left her alone in her room to engage in her more recent sulking ritual that seems to take up more time than actual homework and at some point during that process, I heard the thumpings of a temper tantrum coming from her room and that’s when I snapped. I did not stop to consider what was going on in my heart to make me react so strongly to her behavior, nor did I allow myself any buffer time before I threw open her door and joined her in her tantrum. She had thrown around a box that her sister had bought for her and the beating had broken the top clean off. It pains me greatly to admit what happened next. I did not hesitate to follow her example instead of leading with the maturity and patience she needed. I simply asked if she was sure she was done with her tantrum as I flung the box across the room for one last flight . . . right as her sister stepped into the doorway to witness the whole ugly thing. At that moment, I was engulfed in the aftermath of Hurricane Karen with one child crying and one child looking at me like I was the grim reaper coming to collect her soul. A blanket of shame swept over me and I was poised to give myself a brutal inner beating. I suddenly knew what Adam & Eve felt when God came calling after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. I was exposed and ashamed.
I knew I couldn’t just stand there, so I apologized to both of them and told them that I needed to regroup so that the situation would not worsen. They were more than happy to oblige. I wanted to hide from God because I knew He saw it all and He was calling for me . . . “What went wrong, Karen?” I took off running – literally. I ran through my neighborhood, listening over and over again to the same song – How He Loves Us. The song kept pouring the truth about God’s grace into my heart until I was completely drenched in it.
In addition to those beautiful words and music, I was hearing God tell me that I lost sight of Him in that exchange and that He loves me with a fierce love no matter how many times I get it wrong. He was telling me to try again – that the day isn’t over and neither is His work in me. God knew that I was never going to be able to make it authentically right without first receiving His grace. Once we had taken care of that, I was able to approach my girls with humility, minus the hovering cloud of shame that typically accompanies my apologies. There is one line out of that powerful song that puts it all in perspective for me: “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves us.” It drove home the point that if we are focused on His love for us, our regrets lose all their power over us and we are free to move forward without dragging the weight of our mistakes behind us. I am finally coming to “believe” what I’ve always known.
Looking back, I am grateful for this particular parental fowl because it gave me an opportunity to share with both of my daughters what grace looks like when we are truly able to “accept” it. We cannot pass it on to others if we don’t first accept it for ourselves. As always, my heavenly Father has brought much fruit and beauty out of my failures, ugliness and inadequacies. Oh How He Loves Us . . .