So today was a long day- nothing particularly dreadful, just lots of fatigue and whining children and noise and a baby who is suddenly mobile and a daddy who wasn’t home yet. It was getting late and I was wishing someone other than myself had put the kids to bed an hour before. And as I was wrestling with dishes and fights and pajamas, one of them suddenly said something to me that hit a raw nerve.
It was a first for me, having one of my children say something that hurt my feelings so much that it made me cry. There was a moment where I was standing there, staring at him, blinking back tears, and then I had to excuse myself. I went into the bathroom and closed the door and had to take a few deep breaths to get a grip and think how to deal with the situation.
I knew he hadn’t said what he did to be malicious, but I also knew that he had no business talking to his mother that way. I was frustrated, angry and hurt, and I wanted to be able to handle things graciously but firmly, to make sure my erring child knew that what he had done was wrong and that he needed to be careful with his words. But I have a hard time telling people when they have hurt me. It feels whiny and self-centered for me to let someone know that I need an apology from them- a chance to extend forgiveness so that I don’t seethe quietly inside from past offenses that I have failed to deal with.
But this was my child- not a sister or a parent or a husband who had offended against me. He is my responsibility and I pictured him, if I ignored this offense and pretended I was fine, growing up to treat his friends and family and eventually his wife in the same way. I knew I had to say something. So I squared my shoulders and opened the bathroom door, prepared to go hunt down the culprit who was no doubt off in a corner somewhere, blissfully and unrepentantly playing with legos.
I was prepared to go and look for him. But I was not prepared to find him standing their with his head leaning against the door. I was prepared to convict him of his sin, but I was not prepared for the look of sheer misery on his face as he turned to try and look at me, and couldn’t meet my eye. I was prepared to administer discipline, but I was not prepared to see his whole body trembling with suppressed sobs of pure remorse as he tried to gasp an apology. I was not prepared for any of it, but I grabbed onto the moment and his shoulders and pulled him close. We both stood there in the hallway, crying together. If you know anything about me, or him, this is not a normal occurrence.
Parenthood is many things, not all of them wonderful. But sometimes I am astonished at the glimpses it can give us into the heart of God. Tonight I thought about how often God has to go and hunt us down in our sin and misery, and drag us, sometimes with a hard providence, kicking and screaming into repentance and restoration. That is usually how I picture remorse- a remorse rooted in getting caught and being forced to deal with what we have done. And that is what I was ready to do for my son because I love him too much to let him remain in his sin.
But tonight I saw a different picture. Tonight I saw that remorse doesn’t always need to be that way. Tonight my boy came to me. He didn’t try to hide or make excuses. Yes he was guilty and he was afraid, but he came anyway and leaned on the door. That was all. He couldn’t quite speak the words. But it was enough. And so tonight there was no hard providence- no kicking and screaming and hard earned restoration. Tonight I smiled over his misery and his grief because it meant a soft heart. Tonight I was glad to receive a wound because it showed me a tender conscience. I thanked God for my small hurt that could bring my boy such big happiness, because as much as I was glad to forgive him, he was giddy with joy to be forgiven.
In my life, as a parent, a wife, a part of God’s family, I so often fail to draw the obvious parallels that He lays out everywhere for my help and benefit. But tonight, at the end of a long day, I know that I too have sinned and offended. I am also a child, guilty and a little afraid. But I will go and lean on the door.