It seemed like a good idea at the time.
“Okay, you each get $4.00 to spend on whatever school supplies you want! Have fun!"
I mean, come on. Here’s your budget, now I will set you loose in the school supply section of Walmart - let’s be honest, this is a fantasy straight out of my childhood.
Fast forward 20 minutes, past a blur of explanations that Paw Patrol bandaids don’t qualify as school supplies and reminders that you MUST look before you step/jump/run out into an aisle and orders to apologize to the people that you just crashed into and stubborn preschool “I will not do as you say” determination, and here we were, you hyperventilating over the fact that I will not buy the 4 slap bracelets in your hand and me trying to stay calm in the Walmart-tantrum-vortex.
And into the cloud of emotions, and my rising disbelief at how this was turning out, and the hopelessness of my desire to lecture you out of your tantrum, came a voice behind me.
“She’s so sweet, isn’t she?”
Are you kidding me? She is anything but sweet right now.
I turned toward the voice and saw a little old woman, white hair in wisps around sharp eyes. Eyes that cut right into mine as she said again, in a deliberate voice…
“Isn’t she, Mama? Isn’t she sweet?”
And the gentle rebuke from the Father spoken through this stranger cut me to the quick. I turned back around and saw you. Really saw you. I saw your pigtails and your swollen, tear-filled eyes and snotty nose and the way you broke your crying for a yawn, and I remembered the way you had come to my room at 2:00 that morning and flailed around, unable to go back to sleep, for the next couple of hours. And I know how hard it is to function on a lack of sleep as a 32 year old, and I think how much harder it would be as a four year old, and my heart filled back up with compassion instead of annoyance.
Yes. Yes she is. She is so sweet.
By the time I looked back up the little lady was gone, so of course we had to hunt her down through the wilderness of Walmart, and when we finally did find her I gave her a hug and thanked her, and she pulled back and looked at me, her eyes softer this time, and whispered, “I remember how it is.”
Honey, you are sweet. Your sin is not sweet and your tantrums are not sweet, but you – bearer of God’s image, fearfully and wonderfully made, precious gift from the Father – you are sweet and valuable and important.
And this is part of what grace is, isn’t it? Looking past the outward appearance and into the heart, seeing the beauty behind the veneer, and being able to show compassion for weakness. I wouldn’t want any bystanders to judge you or write you off as a spoiled brat in Walmart, because they don’t know. They don’t know how alive and bright and funny and generous you are. They don’t know that you are the best helper I know or that your laugh can fill up a room or that you bring joy to everyone who knows you.
But I do. And I know your weakness. I know that you have trouble with self-control, and that you haven’t figured out yet how to handle your emotions when you are tired. And if I can remember those weaknesses in the context of who I know that you are, I can come alongside of you and direct you with grace.
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever…
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God…
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
You see, dear one, this is the grace that I have tasted. I do not normally have tantrums over slap bracelets in Walmart these days. But I do set my jaw and shake my fists when my plans do not go right, or when people do not act right, or when my emotions do not feel right. And I have learned, and am learning, that God’s grace extends to me even, and especially, in those moments. He doesn’t write me off as a spoiled brat. He sees Christ in me and lovingly refines me every day.
Yesterday did not get much better in the way of meltdowns until you crashed into bed at 7:00 last night. And I imagine we will have more days like this to come. But I pray that I will always remember to see past the frustrations and hear that little whisper behind me as I strive to shepherd your heart… “She is so sweet.”
And you are. I love you, sweet sweet girl.