Having children will teach you about casting stones. Before I had children I would have an experience with a child that could go something like this – I would ask them to do something and they would disobey, either secretly or blatantly, and then I would think in not so many words, what a little kid jerk face. (I’m not proud of that, but I can only be real.)
Fast forward to two years ago (?) and now I have my own children. This morning I asked Micah to do something and he looked at me out of the corner of his eye and attempted to disobey while keeping an eye on me to see if I would notice. Since I happened to be staring right at him, as I had just told him what I wanted him not to do, I did indeed notice.
But here’s the thing. Oftentimes I am not doing what I should be doing, and I can probably be found doing what I shouldn’t be doing. Make sense? How clearly do I know that it’s completely unreasonable and wrong to lash out in anger at a blind because it fell on me for the five optillionth time when I opened it? But I do it anyways. The other day I told Micah that just because we don’t get something we want does not mean we can get mad and throw a fit, and then I added in my mind, unless, of course, you’re an adult. What double standards we’re prone to, yes?
I want to extend the same grace that the Lord extends to me. But (and this, I believe, is where we’ve often become imbalanced in the American church), that does not mean I extend grace at the expense of discipline. In the same way that day after day I discipline and instruct my son, the Lord will discipline and instruct me. There are consequences to our sins, and the Lord’s forgiveness, albeit lavishly and fully poured out, does not always keep us from those. As the late Elizabeth Edwards said, “You can choose your sin, but you can’t choose your consequences.”
Children are not being jerk-faces (ok, some are), they just often have not become as crafty as we are at hiding wrong-doing. I look back with such shame at some of the foolish things I said in the name of having-it-all-together. Here’s an example: Matt and I knew a couple who lost their 7-week old daughter to SIDS. Understandably the wife was a mess, and had responded by hunkering down and completely internalizing. It was so painful to watch, but she would not allow anybody in, and so we felt like our hands were tied. Well, after awhile my compassion ran out and I started to make comments like, “There’s a healthy way to grieve and she’s not doing it. She needs to open up and let people in. She needs to hear the truth in love.” Thank the Lord, I never said those things to her, but I sure wanted to.
Since then I’ve read many, many stories of women losing their children and here’s the common theme among them: grief is messy and isolating; there are no formulas and no way around it. Bear with us in love and don’t say anything at all if you don’t know what to say.
Just a couple days ago I read this from Prairie Mama, who lost her 8 month old daughter, “Let me just say this, if you have not lost a child do not tell a grieving parent what they should and shouldn’t do and what seems excessive to you. You have no idea. You don’t know what it is like to have Mother’s Day come and to know that you have only part of your family here with you. You don’t know what it is like to have birthday’s come only to go celebrate them in a cemetery. You don’t know what it is like to watch other children your child’s age grow and know that you will not get to see that. You just don’t know. Heck, I have lost a child and I still wouldn’t do that. Why? Because everyone grieves so differently. Grief is a strange animal and it manifests in so many different ways.”
So what does this have to do with casting stones and children? Aren’t we so quick to determine what’s right and wrong for others and look down on them if they’re not getting it right every single time? The In-My-Head-Me (IMHM) is amazing. The IMHM never says the wrong thing, she always acts graciously, she never gets angry or impatient. (I think she even irons her socks.) I’m sad at how often the IMHM doesn’t match the Outside Me. But I want other people to believe the IMHM is still there even if the Outside Me is completely screwing up. I have a heart to know the Lord and walk with him but I can still choose to say something hurtful and stupid. We’re sinners saved by God’s lavish grace and before I get my chonies all scrunched up because Micah tried to secretly disobey me, or because I think somebody should be grieving “better,” let me consider my ways and then remember God’s ways. Kindness. Patience. Forbearance. Forgiveness. Love.
Before I decide somebody is grieving wrongly, let me remember God’s ways. Before I decide somebody’s wrong because their strengths are different than mine, let me remember God’s ways. Before I open my fist and cast that first stone, let me remember my ways. And then remember God’s ways.