My grip on his shoulder was rapidly turning from “directive” and “connecting” to let me remind you how furious I am right now. I let go immediately and he moved ten feet away from me.
It was dark outside, but the moon was full and bright so his posture of fear and detachment was perfectly clear.
Oh, Lord, my heart started praying, I wasn’t going to get here again. I wasn’t going to let him push my buttons and make me angry. I wasn’t going to be shocked or surprised when he lashed out. I wasn’t going to let his mood dictate mine. And for sure and certain, I was not going to wear any shoes that I couldn’t walk for miles in. My feet hurt already.
I felt condemnation fall like a blanket. I know all about connected parenting. I know about attachment disorders and broken trust. I know about holding my cool and looking past behavior to see what’s actually going on. I could list fifteen different ways I could have prevented this meltdown.
Twenty different responses I could have had that would have pulled him in closer and helped him trust, instead of leaving us walking down a dirt road ten feet apart.
It felt like the condemning, frustrating thoughts came for hours—but in truth it was only a few seconds before they skidded to a halt. Other words filled my mind. Words I had read just that morning.
A devotional by Durenda Wilson, Unhurried Grace for a Mom’s Heart had come in the mail. There was interest in it being added to a list of devotionals for moms, so I started working my way through it—planning to do an in-depth preview. After just a few moments I knew I should settle in and use it for the month. Actually write in my answers—listen closely for God’s voice—and trace the Scriptures with my hand and my heart.
The verse from that morning rushed past me, just as the wind lifted my hair and spun across my skin.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
The Greek word for “grace” is charis.
There has always been a bit of a struggle to define grace. Some say, unmerited favor, others unearned goodwill or undeserved kindness. Clearly, everyone agrees that it is unmerited, unearned, and undeserved. That’s what makes it grace.
Charis in the New Testament is connected to the Hebrew term Kana, which means, extension toward, grace—and both refer to God freely extending Himself (giving of Himself), reaching (or leaning) toward people because He is predisposed to bless and be near them.
So this verse? What it’s really saying is, Tasha, I’m right here. I’m already inclined in your direction—I’m not withdrawing from you or turning from you. I’m leaning toward you—offering everything I am to meet your needs in this very moment. I know you’re weak and you don’t have the ability to offer grace to anyone else, even yourself, but I’m here. And I am more than enough.
I looked over at my son. The one who had lashed out enough that we had to stop and get out of the car to keep everyone safe. The one that was responsible for this one mile walk to the house, in shoes that were making my feet ache. The one who was scared of the perfectly bright and cheerful night—whose fear wasn’t even lessened by his mama walking beside him. And right then, God’s grace was enough to fill in all the gaps of my weaknesses (and anger and frustration and fear) and all I felt was grace for my child.
The emotions that were clouding my vision were wiped clean. When I looked at him, I didn’t see all the places I should have done something different. All I saw were the places I could move to bring healing.
“It’s going to be okay,” I said, my voice carrying on the deserted road. “I’m right here. I’m not leaving you.”
He looked at me—and mixed in with the fear and self-loathing and anger, there was hope.
I took two steps over, knelt down a bit and said, “Jump on my back. I’ll give you a ride.” I learned awhile back that he was quicker to respond to a piggy back ride than a hug—but he was always willing to give a hug when I set him back down. He hesitated, then threw his arms around my neck.
I could only carry him a couple hundred yards. But I was glad I carried him because the years are so short and it won’t be long before he’ll be big enough to carry me instead. I told him that and he smiled tentatively at me. “If you keep me around until then,” he finally said with a huff.
“Oh, you’ll still be my son,” I promised him, because adoption at eight years old might have left him questioning what family means—but it doesn’t make me question it.
“But I hurt your family,” he said.
I looked down at him. My arm was around his shoulders, my grip back to directive and connecting. “Actually, Bubba, you hurt your family. But it’ll be okay. We’re still here.”
“So you’re not angry anymore?”
Suddenly, God’s ability to have wrath and love made a thousand times of sense. “Actually, I am,” I said. “I’ll always be angry when my children are being hurt or are hurting others. But I love you and I’m still here and we’re still family.”
I stopped and took off my shoes because sometimes walking sock-footed in the grass on the edge of a back road is better than your feet being pinched and aching. He watched me. “What are you doing?”
“My feet hurt in those shoes,” I explained.
“Then why did you walk with me? I could have walked home alone.”
I suppose I could have pointed out that I actually couldn’t have done that—we were too far from home for me to allow it, even if he had been doing well—but instead I thought for a moment before answering. In his mind, of course, he could have walked home alone and he’s right. It was a possible feat. It wouldn’t have been right but it was possible. So instead, I just smiled at him in the moonlight. It really was a beautiful warm night. “I like being with you,” I said.
Because really, when I’m walking through the consequences of my own sin—that’s pretty much what Jesus says to me.
That’s pretty much what grace is.
And it turns out, there is enough of that grace—that, “I like being with you,”—to walk through every step of my weaknesses, to fill in every gap of my brokenness, to lean as far toward me as is needed so He can be near me, no matter where I’ve managed to put myself.
And the same is true for you.
His grace really is enough.
And the thing that makes it grace is the fact that it is right here, right now, (no matter where here or now is) already extended toward us.
Amen and amen.