One of my beloved children threw an epic tantrum in the Aldi check-out line last week. The impressive kind of tantrum that pre-mom me would have looked at and thought, “My child will never!” Well, my child did. Of course, it was a self-check line, and of course, I had a week’s worth of groceries to scan, and of course, I had my two other kids to keep an eye on, and of course, the entire store decided to head to the check-out lines at the same time.
Thanks to my audience, I managed to stay calm. I managed to pay for all of the groceries (I think) largely because another woman abandoned her teenager in another line to come to help me. (But seriously, thank you, kind lady! It takes a village, right!?) As we left the store, I was feeling a little embarrassed and very frustrated. I managed to discipline him fairly, get that boy home for a nap, and vow never to go grocery shopping with children under the age of 16.
Once my heart rate returned to normal and I took a few deep breaths, I thought about how absurd his fit had been, how often we talk about self-control, and the correct ways to show our emotions. I thought about how badly he had blown it. Then, my thoughts turned inward: How I must have blown it as a parent. Is he not learning anything from me? Am I failing him as a mom? These questions peppered my recollection of the event.
Then, like weeds popping up in a garden, one perceived failure spiraled into more.
Honestly, without even realizing it, I began making a mental list of the ways I was failing, the categories of my life where I was falling short: As a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a writer, and—perhaps the one that was most crushing—a disciple of Jesus.
We recently studied the life of Peter in our student ministry at church, and one Sunday after that grocery store experience, we talked about how Peter denied Jesus and abandoned Him right before Jesus was crucified. How a lost and discouraged Peter went back to fishing. How a kind and merciful Savior made breakfast for His friends. How Jesus addressed Peter on that beach asking, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? He (Peter) said to Him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs,” (John 21:15)
Jesus looked at a man who had truly blown it and didn’t say, “How dare you!” Jesus didn’t list all the other ways Peter had fallen short. Jesus didn’t give Peter a list of things he had to do to get back into God’s good graces.
Jesus looked at a man who had truly blown it and asked, “Do you love me? If you do, let’s keep going. Keep caring for my people.”
When I think about that moment at the grocery store, I see it as just a moment. A blip in time. It is not a part of my son’s identity (or of mine). It doesn’t define him, and it doesn’t change how I feel about him. Did he blow it? Sure. There was a much better choice he could have made. But do I look at him today and think about that tantrum? Nope. I look at him and see his heart. His tenderness and his silliness, his curiosity and his bravery. I look at him and swell with pride, love, and joy that I can know him. That I get to teach him and watch him grow.
Jesus is the same with us as He was with Peter. Even when we blow it, He doesn’t accuse or condemn us. We are not defined by our imperfections, our poor choices, our flat-out rebellion, or our impressive tantrums.
Instead, Jesus looks at us and sees our hearts. He looks at us and swells with pride, love, and joy that we can know Him. That He can teach us and watch us grow.
Jesus takes a quiet minute to ask us, “Do you love me?” And when we emphatically respond, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.” He gently says, “Then, let’s keep going. Feed my lambs; take care of my people.”
Despite their choices, your kids cannot blow it so badly that they are excluded from God’s grace.
Despite your choices, you cannot blow it so badly that you are excluded from God’s grace.
It is yours. Completely. Right now, if you’ll accept it. All you have to do is tell Jesus that you love Him and that you’re ready to take care of His people.
Father, I love you. Forgive me for all of the ways I’ve failed you. All the ways that I’ve fallen short in my relationship with others and in my parenting. Keep teaching me and leading me; I’m ready to listen and follow You. Thank you for your unfailing love and grace, for giving me a purpose, despite my mistakes. Help me to remember to show my kids the same grace that you show me every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Callie Clayton writes to encourage others (and remind herself) that it’s possible to experience God right where you are. She enjoys teaching the Bible to teenagers, having good conversation over meals she didn’t cook, and baking all the chocolate desserts. Embracing her role as a boy-mom to three little ones, she and her husband are worn out, but loving the adventure of parenthood.