31 Days:: That’s Why It’s Called Grace
Day 8: That’s Why It’s Called Grace
I was recently reminded that “sometimes we learn more through the stories of failure rather than the stories of success.” Well… I’ve got plenty of failings I could share! And if these stories happen to bring you any measure of comfort or inspiration or encouragement, you can take them all.
* * *
One of my most shameful moments as a mother was when my oldest daughter was somewhere between 2 1/2-3 and my second daughter was barely one. I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in three years, I was perpetually stressed out about how to do this mothering thing well, and I was so. utterly. exhausted. All the time.
The only time of day that brought me any sense of relief was that tiny window of time when I was somehow able to get both of my girls to nap at the same time. Many times their naps only overlapped for 30 minutes or so, but on average I had figured out a way to make it possible for me to get an hour or so of alone time in the middle of the day. Golden.
I’m not sure there are words to describe how very much I looked forward to that sliver of alone time. Sometimes I would get in a quick workout; sometimes I would clean the house or fold laundry; sometimes I would pay bills or catch up with a long-distance relative over the phone. Many times I would just nap.
The story I’m about to share with you was going to be one of those days.
I was so ridiculously tired. So tired that all I fantasized about that day was how good nap time would feel. It couldn’t come soon enough, I tell you! I suffered through making eggs and toast for the kids’ breakfast, tried my best to be patient while they fussed in the stroller on our morning walk, endured keeping them both alive and entertained at the playground, tolerated reading their thick board books. I grumpily played toys with them and drew pictures at the coffee table. I changed diapers and wiped stinky butts and made lunch and read more books and tried to be as pleasant as I could with them.
But all the while I kept looking at the clock: “Is it nap time yet? Please? Pretty pretty please can nap time come yet?” I thought all morning long.
Finally, it was time. The glorious time I looked forward to every day— and especially this day.
So I went about our usual routine. I had my toddler go pee on the toilet, then put a pullup on her just in case, changed the baby’s diaper, and snuggled all three of us on my toddler’s twin-sized mattress— me in the middle, my toddler on the left, my baby on the right. We read a few short books together, skipping pages as usual, then I picked up the baby, rolled off the bed, and leaned down to kiss the soft, round cheeks of my almost-3-year-old, turned off the light, said “Nigh-night, sweetie” and walked out of the room, closing the door gently behind me.
Not wanting to waste any precious time, I took the baby straight to the papisan chair under the big window in the living room, sat down in it, shifted my hips so that I was leaning more to the left to face my little one, pulled up my shirt and started nursing her. She always fell asleep while nursing— and in this position, on this comfy chair, with the warm sunlight streaming through the slats of the window above, I would be able to fall asleep warm and comfortably as well.
I closed my eyes while the little one sucked away and I began breathing deeply and rhythmically, trying to calm my mind and body enough to claim some much-needed rest.
I breathed in 1, 2, 3, 4 and out 1, 2, 3, 4… in 1, 2, 3, 4… and out 1, 2, 3, 4… in 1, 2, 3… Ahhhhh….
It didn’t take long. I had soon drifted softly off to sleep.
After less than 5 minutes of absolute restful ecstasy, I heard “Moooooom!!!! I all dooooooone!!!!” The loud, forceful voice of a toddler who has had the equivalent of a power nap, punched me awake in horror.
“Unacceptable,” I thought.
Terrified my toddler was going to wake up the baby with her volume, I quickly yet carefully got up so as not to disturb the little one, and rushed to my big girl’s bedroom door.
I opened it swiftly and said firmly “Sweetie. You need to stop making noise. Your sister is asleep. You are NOT done with your nap yet. You need to go back to sleep.”
Her response to my logic? Crying. “Noooo, Moooommy! I all done! I not tiiiiired!”
“Honey,” I explained. “It. is. nap. time,” I said through gritted teeth, wanting with all my heart to go over to her and smack her into submission. “Close. your. eyes. and go. to. sleep!” I growled and closed the door.
Sobbing became wailing on the other side of the door. “Mommyyyyyy!!!” she was bawling. Her volume was getting louder and louder and I thought I heard the baby squirm in the other room.
And then something in me snapped. My world was a blur and everything seemed to spin and all I could think about was how utterly exhausted I was and how I deserved some freaking sleep, for God’s sake! And how this little 2 1/2 year old was ruining it all…
I heard the baby cry in the other room and that’s when I lost it.
I opened the bedroom door and screamed at my toddler: “Shut! The! F*#$@%! Up!” I roared as I stared hatefully into her tear-filled little eyes. I yelled so loud and so from-the-gut that I literally lost my voice for a few days afterwards. It honestly sounded like a demon was crawling out of my soul. I slammed the door so hard that the entire house shuddered.
As soon as those words came out of my mouth and I felt the shudder that the slammed door had made, I felt like a great big pile of poopy, stinky, rancid, nasty, disgusting, forgotten garbage. The kind of garbage that is so repulsive that it horrifies.
I heard what I had said and how I said it and looked at who I had said it to and I felt like the worst person on Planet Earth.
“What kind of a person says something like that to their little angel-faced baby who is genuinely not tired and doesn’t know any better!?” I thought to myself. “What kind of a person am I? I just verbally abused my child. I cursed at her and spoke hatefully and shamefully to her. I am a horrible person,” I thought.
Shame and remorse immediately made me turn that doorknob and rush over to my daughter’s bedside, kneel down beside her, hug her, and sob. Over and over I apologized: “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. Mommy shouldn’t have yelled like that and said those words.” I looked her in the eyes and, through sobs, said “I am soooo sorry, sweetheart. Please forgive me.”
And then, with the innocence and simplicity and trust that I have only ever seen in a small child, my little girl looked me in my puffy, red, tearful eyes and said simply “I forgive you, Mommy.” Cue: angelic smile.
And here is where God comes into this: Almost two weeks later, I was at a Bible study with some girlfriends and at some point I shared this story with them. I sobbed and confessed to them how I’m such a crappy mom and how I said this horrible thing to my sweet little girl. I told them how I’m afraid I’m an abusive woman and asked them what will happen if this gets worse and I actually hurt my child someday? Or what if I keep verbally abusing my child and then she becomes a jacked up human because she had such a crappy mom?” And on and on and on.
Clearly, I was a mess.
And then two surprising things happened: First, every other woman in the room— all women who I thought were stellar moms and wise, godly women all around, each said “Oh, I’ve said that too— and even worse!” Every single woman said that. That was shocking to me! And the other surprising thing I learned from that moment came from the mouth of one of my dearest and wisest friends: she asked me if I had apologized to my daughter after that incident— I told her “Of course I did— immediately. And she forgave me, too!” And then she asked me if I had confessed it to God. I had. In fact, as soon as Ellie and I made peace, I had gone into my room and kneeled at my bedside and cried and told God that I was sorry for what I had done.
And then my friend asked me a question I will never forget: “And did you receive His forgiveness?”
Wait… What? What are you talking about?
“No. Of course not! I don’t deserve to receive his forgiveness,” I said with all my heart.
“Well that’s the point, Kristi,” she chided. “You don’t deserve it. But He gives it to you anyway. You just have to receive it.”
To that I replied, “But I am afraid that if I receive His forgiveness it’ll be like I’m accepting what I did and saying it wasn’t a big deal— I’m afraid it’ll make me feel like it’s OK to do it again.”
And then she asked me another poignant question: “And how has that worked out for you for these past couple weeks? Are you being better with Ellie? Are you more patient and more loving with your kids because of how bad you feel?”
I was quiet for a moment while it dawned on me: “No… I’m not,” I realized. “Actually, I think I’ve been more short-tempered and on edge than ever. All because I’m afraid I’m going to screw up again and I’m still filled with shame about what happened.”
“Kristi, you need to receive God’s forgiveness,” my dear friend explained. “Yes, you did something shameful. No, you’re not worthy of God’s forgiveness. But that’s the point. That’s Grace. And for the sake of your daughters you need to let God to give you the gift of forgiveness. If you don’t receive His love and His forgiveness, your remorse is just going to keep eating you alive and making things worse for you and for them.”
Somehow… when I looked at it that way— when it was for the sake of my kids— I decided to just do it. I went home that night, confessed my sin again, and I asked God to please forgive me. And then, when He offered up that forgiveness, I humbly— more humbly than I had ever felt in my life— received it. I didn’t deserve it. I still don’t deserve it. What I did was not right. But the fact of the matter is that I needed Him. And that’s what Grace is.
So I want to encourage all of you: if you are bound by shame on something in your past or even something that just happened within the last hour of your life… I want to encourage you to genuinely and honestly take it to God. Tell Him about how crappy you feel. Tell Him all the reasons why you’re a big jerk and you don’t deserve His love and forgiveness… and then… when He extends love and grace anyway… when He wants to look in your eyes and tell you He loves you and you are beautiful and He desires you anyway… then do what is the only sane and logical response when face to face with such love: RECEIVE IT. Be humble enough to admit that YES you don’t deserve it and YES you desperately need and want it. I guarantee that when you honestly confess and then receive what He wants to give you in return, you will feel a sense of freedom and joy and wholeness that you never had before.
It happened to me. I know it will happen for you, too.
*To get to the main menu, where you can view and click on everything I end up posting for this 31 Day Challenge, click here.
* * *
What about you?
What is something beautiful you have learned through a hard time? Do you find yourself feeling comforted when hearing about other people’s imperfections?
Please feel free to share your journey in the comment section below.