God is really working on me.
It is hot as blazes in Georgia these days, so many an afternoon is spent at the pool. Because my children are new at the whole diving board scene, I tend to hover in the deep end to keep an eye on them.
A few days ago as K was waiting in line for the board another child cut in front of her. I watched as K 'used her words' to tell the child that she had been ahead of her. I also watched as the child shrugged her shoulders and said to K, "So?" while pushing her back with her rear end.
K, who knew I was watching, looked up at me plaintively. I feel like I am constantly wrestling with when to intervene and when to let my children learn to work things out. I decided to just nod my head in acknowledgement that I had witnessed the offense.
With crocodile tears K looked at me and said, "But, Mom, cutting is wrong."
"I know," I replied.
I did a quick scan and noticed that the Mama was tending to another child and had missed the incident. Deciding not to make a big thing out of kids being kids I waited by the ladder and addressed the child as she was exiting the water.
"No cutting, OK? Everyone will get a turn. Let's play nice."
The child looked at me with a great deal of attitude and indifference. It flew ALL over me. So, I behaved like a five year old and added, "Cutting is mean."
It felt good in the moment, but then I was embarrassed. Not because of what I said, as much as because of how I felt. I REALLY don't like injustice. For a grace-professing Christian, I have to admit I can often identify far more with the older brother in the story of the prodigal son, than the open armed father.
As a lifelong 'goodie goodie' I have to really fight Pharisaical tendency to 'rank' sin. Sure, I gossip, embellish, covet, take God's name in vain, fail to observe the Sabbath, rebel, am impatient, ungrateful and unforgiving (and more)...but I don't kill, rape, or sleep around, so I am good compared to most, right? At least I am trying...and when I mess up I feel guilty and repent. (usually)
UGH! My hypocrisy makes me crazy.
I love a great story of grace...I just have conditions. I want the recipient to earn their reprieve based on repentance. I don't want revenge, I just want to see humility. I want to know the sinner has learned their lesson!
"There is danger in being sure of forgiveness before one has become insecure because of one's sin." -Helmut Thielcke
And right in the middle of pondering all this, our lesson Sunday morning included the following passage from Matthew 5:
"Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: 'Don't hit back at all.' If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
Matthew 5:38-42 (The Message)
I was mulling the consequences of teaching this position to my children. What would that have looked like on the diving board? Should I have encouraged K to graciously let the child go ahead of her, without the need to call her out? (That's what my flesh was crying for. I just needed her to know she wasn't getting away with anything.) Or will that be setting my children up to be victimized and walked all over? Won't they be taken advantage of?
"Duty is ours; consequences are God's." -Thomas Stonewall Jackson
I had another opportunity to test the lesson as we were on our way to pizza Saturday night. The children had asked to play games in the restaurant's arcade. We told them they could if they took the change from their 'spend' jars.
Each child was clutching their quarters as we loaded the car, despite my husband's encouragement to let him hold them until after dinner.
"If you lose them," he cautioned, "that's it. Mom & I will not replace them."
Less than 30 seconds later K was whimpering because she had dropped one of hers in the car. She was already buckled and we were in motion, so we told her she would have to wait to look for it when we arrived at the restaurant.
"Here, you can have one of mine, " P offered.
Just as I was about to put my foot down, my husband intervened.
"P, that is very kind and generous of you, son. Way to go!"
P smiled sheepishly.
"Thanks, P," K beamed.
"But, she dropped it after you warned her, " I whispered in the front seat. "I don't want her to take advantage of P."
"She didn't ASK for it," my husband pointed out, "He offered."
My husband was right. My son was showing kindness and generosity and I almost missed it because I was so tangled up in justice and consequences. Ugh! This stuff gets sticky!
When we arrived at the restaurant, K found her quarter and gratefully returned P's. Meanwhile, I was left scratching my head and examining my heart.