I realized today that I’m now in my longest stretch of time between calls to the Poison Control Center. I’m always amazed how I’ve managed to keep three kids alive as long as I have. I called poison control when Ellia ate her first Sonic cup and when I accidentally gave 4 month old Olive a teenager’s dose of Benadryl. I called again when Brett was temporarily blinded in a freak chemical explosion in our backyard and the time Olive tasted bleach. The lady on the other end of the phone is always calm—too calm. She asks questions to which I don’t know the answer, like, “how much bleach did she drink” or “has she passed the Styrofoam yet?”
But even when she told me Olive was so girth-y that a little extra Benadryl wouldn’t hurt her, I still felt no judgment. Somehow she expected me as a parent to turn my back for a second, to make a mistake, to flake a little on being perfect or fail miserably from time to time.
She had a comforting lilt to her voice. I recognized it later.
It’s just called grace.
It’s not the cynical “I expect the world to fail so of course you’re a terrible parent” outlook—it’s the “I get that we’re all going to bomb out, so of course your kid ate poop” perspective.
And anytime I need a reminder of what grace feels like, I’ll call the Rocky Mountain Poison Control Center just to hear someone say I’m not a failure.
I think I’m a little stingier with my grace than the poison control lady.
“It’s going to be okay, but you should be more careful…”
I think I make people feel a little bad before I’ll feed them a little comfort.
Somewhere we’ve learned that we need to get people to feel worse in order to get them to act better.
So, we rely on the destructive tools of shame and blame to teach people our expectations.
Don’t let me down. Don’t mess this up. Don’t go out of bounds.
If you do, I’ll withdraw. I’ll withhold love. I’ll remind you of what you’ve done.
These responses are directly opposed to grace.
Grace is when we don’t treat people like they’re stupid when they make mistakes.
Grace is when we hug people who give us the finger.
Grace is when we hold a kid who fell because they were disobedient.
Grace’s goal isn’t to teach. Instead, grace works to communicate unadulterated love.
Of course grace teaches us who we are, but only as it shows us God’s perspective on our lives.
When we speak, do we do so with a desire to fix?
Do we want to coerce people into our way of thinking?
Do we want to shame them in their weaknesses?
Do we want to blame them for our irritability?
Or are we freed to love?
We can live our whole lives dictated by a set of expectations by which we judge the world.
The temptation is to love our ideals and expectations more than the brokenness we encounter in our communities.
Grace to give when you don’t receive. Grace to hold when you feel abandoned. Grace to reach out when you feel rejected.
Grace, grace, God’s grace.
Grace to embrace those knee-deep in mistakes. Grace for parents who let their kids eat rocks. Grace for moms with messy cars or short tempers or frumpy kids.
Grace for ourselves.
If you want to see the Kingdom come, then respond with grace. If you want to see the world as it should be, then refuse to shame people in their brokenness. Admit your own frailty. Maybe everybody’s kid eats Styrofoam. Maybe all of us fail.
Maybe someone’s calling you just to hear you say they’re not a failure.
Maybe we all need grace.