Friday, January 23, 2015
When my words bit me in the bum...
This morning my wild child, who also shares the husband's propensity for meticulousness (we lesser beings refer to this particular propensity as anal retentiveness), was sitting on her floor, carefully arranging her leggings just so over her socks with all the precision and dexterity of a brain surgeon.
And I'm sitting at the end of her bed, watching. Waiting. Waiting some more.
It's a good morning so far:
No temper tantrums.
No wardrobe malfunctions.
No lost shoes. Or lost minds.
No spills, flips, or double-flips.
And well, that wild child peers up at me, flashes me her toothless little grin, and with a little sass says, "Mama, am I killing you?"
I laugh without really understanding what, exactly, I'm laughing at. Almost like a courtesy laugh. And then her words hit me. Like rocks shattering the glassy surface of my peaceful pond.
I pause in shock. To be sure I heard her correctly, I ask her to repeat herself. (Aren't we mamas sometimes gluttons for punishment; like the first time wasn't enough so we ask for more?)
"Mama, am I killing you right now?" And her inflection is different and she glances sideways to those nimble fingers fixing a legging.
Yep. That, quite unfortunately, is what I thought she said.
And I'm both impressed by her wit and mortified by it.
Because I'm guilty of saying those exact words in the throes of my exasperation. When such a situation doesn't warrant my own temper tantrum (Really, does any situation warrant my own temper tantrum? But that is for another day.) and the antics are somewhat mischievous and so in an attempt to cast some levity, I say, "K, you're killing me right now," in that dry, understated, sarcastic way that we've all heard before, perhaps even used before.
And when I say that to her, I don't mean anything derogatory by it. And therein lies the heart of the issue. Just because we don't mean anything by a word we say doesn't mean that there isn't some sort of transaction that takes place. Because there's always a transaction.
I'm not quite sure if I should be utterly appalled by these words being thrown back at me by my four year old, or humbled because my words have so much more power, so much more impact, than I ever thought--and I'll be honest, I'm all about my words.
And it's the words that we don't think matter, which matter far too much. It's the words tossed carelessly through the air, the words sarcastically spewed, the words that are so many darts at one single balloon that matter. the. most.
It's the words we don't think twice about until the day they echo back to us and that echo is not sweet.
But here's the flip side: Sometimes it's the words we leave unsaid, the words which we hold back from saying because we are hurt or prideful or too busy or too fearful. It's the words that carry healing and grace and love and kindness that sometimes we never say. It's the words that could be "a honeycomb, sweet to the soul" (Prov. 16:24) that we sometimes neglect to say, but if we did, they would rock someone's world. In a good way.
When I think of all the things I've said...words that have risen from some impatient, frustrated, antagonistic place within me--yes, my own brokenness--which have latched on to little minds and little hearts, I get a little bit sad. Like I wish in those moments when the frazzled, weary, frustrated minutes are running through my fingers and my blood pressure rises for all the whirlwind of needing little bodies frantically swirling around me, I wish could just tell myself to stop and breathe. Breathe deeply.
And in the breathing and the being, I can remember that all of this whirling and swirling is just that--whirling and swirling--and I don't need to be frantically trying to catch these little girls...I just need to stop and be still and take a deep breath so I can grab hold of Jesus who's my Rock and can't be moved. And then maybe I could say something gracious instead of caustic. Because when I grab on to Grace instead of angst, my perspective shifts like tumblers in a lock that's been moved with the right Key and then offering grace becomes the byproduct of grabbing hold of the best thing.
But this grabbing on to grace thing is not something I've been good at. There's nothing like your own child reflecting an image that isn't the image you were trying for, looking for, hoping for, to make you eat a bit of humble pie.
But here's a grace, and I'll count it and I'll let it settle down into those shadowy places. The depth and breadth of my girls' unconditional love, despite my shortcomings and failings and mistakes, is nothing short of a miracle. And pure grace. Because there are days, moments, when I get exactly what I don't deserve. There are probably many more moments than I would care to remember where I am not careful or graceful, moments when I speak short and hard and brusque, and minutes later, my slate is wiped clean and they offer hugs and kisses and cuddles--grace. unmeasured.
They don't hold my shortcomings against me.
They don't hold up my failures for the world to see.
They don't throw my mistakes back in my face. At least on purpose.
They just offer grace without even knowing that's what they offer. They give away their kisses and hugs as though it's endless currency. And in the eyes of the Father, it's the only currency. And it's value is only acknowledged in the giving. The giving away dictates the value. No one gets to hoard grace and have it count for something. The only way grace works is by the giving of it and the receiving of it.
On those occasions when the smart, crafty mind of a four year old uses my words to remind me of all this, I'm reminded of how God can work ALL things for good, even something like my careless mouth.
Her words were funny--I'm finding a lot of things four year olds say are funny--but then they weren't funny. I'm not sure that's what I want my little people to reflect. I'm not sure that's what I want them to get from me. I'm not saying that I don't appreciate a bit of humor, because I do; but in this instance, I was convicted of how much power and influence I have as a mama over my kids. How closely their little eyes are watching, how carefully their little ears are listening, how honestly their little mouths are repeating. And there's this opportunity to seize the moment to draw my kids closer to Jesus if I would just hang on, press on, carry on.
It makes me want to be more. More patient. More gracious. More careful. But not just to be more, but to be more like the Father. To be more like Him so my kids will see Him in me. So that the next time K throws my words back, maybe, just maybe, they're full of the heart of Jesus.
Tomorrow's a new day. To practice. To be thoughtful. To remember.
His mercies are new for me tomorrow.
And that's another grace to be counted.
Grace always Rises,