The other night a friend of mine told me a story about a “terrifying yet amazing thing” that happened to her toddler. After not hearing from him for awhile (we all know what happens when a toddler is too quiet) she stuck her head out the back door to see what he was up to. He was standing in their fenced-in back yard pointing at the gap between the fence and the house.
“No, Isaac,” she said. “Come away from there.”
The gap was big enough for him to fit through, and my friend’s husband had been meaning to close it off.
Just then her doorbell rang. It was a neighbor inquiring whether there was a little boy who lived in this house. The man had seen a young toddler walking down the shoulder of the road in front of the house next door, and wanted to be sure he was safe.
Just then, my friend’s son, Isaac, came trotting around the corner.
“Yup, that’s him,” said the man.
Horrified, my friend realized she had stuck her head in the yard just as her son had returned from his streetside adventure.
I think all parents have near-miss stories like this one.
The potential for this incident to end in tragedy was not lost on my friend, but she expressed how faithful God is to watch over our children even when we can’t or don’t. She would not allow herself to dwell on the possibilities, nor would she allow her husband to beat himself up over not having fixed the gap sooner.
God had shown them grace, and they did not take it for granted: the gap was fixed immediately.
I was impressed by this take on things. She had started the story off by saying, “I need to tell you something really scary that happened to Isaac, but it was also really cool.”
I was intrigued.
As it turned out, the Really Cool part was the ability to recognize the presence of Grace in a preventable circumstance.
It made me think about me and Bryan, and all the bickering we’ve been doing lately. I played out the scene in my mind as it would have happened had the same thing happened to us. I dare say neither of us would be so gracious.
Bryan would have blamed me for not having some sort of system in place to make sure Things Get Done around the house.
I would have blamed Bryan for not having time to Get Things Done around the house.
Neither of us, I believe, would have been able to let go of the fact that the gap SHOULD HAVE BEEN FIXED a long time ago.
Neither of us, I’m certain, would have been gushing on about how amazing it is that God protects our children when we should be perfectly capable to do it ourselves.
This is how we struggle. How do we show each other grace – how do we recognize God’s grace? – without sacrificing the need to be good stewards of the things God has given us?
Bryan and I are pretty hard on each other. I know I feel the heavy hand of high expectations, and I dish out a pretty good dose of justification. Just the other day after reporting the nail polish incident to him at work, his first question was, “Where did she get the nail polish?”
Because of our struggles lately, this was a loaded question. In my mind it implied so many things: Why was the nail polish on the dining room table anyway? Why did you let so much time go by without checking on Ruthie? Why weren’t you able to make the salad during the kids’ nap time? Don’t you think you’re taking on too much by babysitting someone else’s toddler?
Bryan may have thought these things, and he may not have. But history begged the possibility of both the questioning and the track record prompting the questions.
In the end, what I long for is graciousness: the ability to give it freely, and the ability to see it when it’s given freely to me.