Thursday, February 5, 2015

Grace in Hand

I looked at Anna's bare ears as we were heading out to the car one evening to go somewhere. "Where have all of your earrings been?" I asked, fully knowing the answer.

"Well, I kind of can't find them," she said sadly.

"Again?!" I exclaimed as we climbed into the car. The evening was frigid. Again. And dark. "You lost every single one of your earrings...again!" I demanded.

"I didn't MEAN to," she insisted, sad and frustrated.

I started into my diatribe. I told her we weren't going to get her earrings if she was going to lose them all. That she had to learn how to be more responsible. That maybe we should just let the holes in her ears close up until she could learn to be more responsible. That she HAD to take better care of things.

She didn't say much from the darkness in the back, but about halfway through I began to get a picture in my mind. It was of the sorry state of my own jewelry. I thought of how many lonely earrings were sitting in a box, waiting for their mates to be found. I thought of all of the pairs missing backs. I thought of the broken ones and the pair I'd worn once before losing one.

I knew, even as I continued lecturing, that I was really speaking to me.

Looking out at bleak January, I wondered how many times, really, did I lose my temper with my kids because they were painfully exposing my own shortcomings? I wondered how I could ever explain that sometimes I was angry because I felt I had failed?

How could I explain that really, I was wondering how I could teach my daughter to be responsible when I didn't know how to responsibly care for my own things?

The next morning, I was still thinking about the earrings. And as I thought, I heard something distinctly in my head.

Give her a pair of your earrings.

"Seriously?" was my first response. The girl had lost every pair she'd ever owned, and as I'd realized so painfully the night before, I had the same problem. My earrings were in short supply.

Give her a pair of your earrings.

This was crazy. Foolish. And how was that teaching her a lesson? Wasn't I "enabling" her irresponsibility?

None of the arguments held any weight against the insisting voice: Give her the earrings. And I knew just the pair. The ones they'd given out at the first day of my mom's group. The dangly little feathers.

And so before Anna headed to school, I told her I had something for her. Then I placed the earrings in her hands. Her eyes lit up. Before I could say anything, I knew I wasn't supposed to say anything. I wasn't supposed to add, "Now don't lose them," or some other "condition" on the gift. I needed to just give.

She put on the earrings and was on her way, and I knew.

I knew this wasn't for her. I knew there would be other days for life lessons and talks about being responsible. I knew that today, that every day, I needed to know. I needed to know what it was like receive mercy so I could properly extend it. This was not about cutting slack and allowing excuses to do the wrong thing. It was about learning to stop the club from smashing down on my head the moment I make a mistake.

Before I could teach her how to not lose her earrings, I had to teach her what it meant to give and receive on those days when its undeserved.

All that, from a tiny pair of feathery earrings.

Grace she can hold in the palm of her hand.

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