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The Price Of Grace

Teaching grace to a six year old is hard...

When she was four she had one of those days in school. You know the kind when you’re just done and go about acting a fool. Well for this sweet girl, that included having a full on fit, in front of her teachers and friends. When I picked her up in carpool line and her teacher started to tell me what happened that day, I couldn’t get my eyes off the sweet face in my rearview mirror. I watched as in a split second shame came over the face of the one I love so much. I wanted to yell at her teacher to shut up and take the precious one in my arms but I waited till we pulled over to talk. I told her I loved her and that she was already disciplined in school so I’m not going to add to it at home. I also explained we would have to talk about it later but I’d wait till after nap. Then I pointed out something she had missed: it was the first day the top was off the jeep and she had a choice to let what happened lay in the past so she could enjoy the wind in her hair, or let her mistake define her day and ruin it. Since then I have done my best to teach her grace and the difference between shame and guilt. I know I am a better nanny because of the work of Brene Brown and recommend her Ted Talks and books to anyone, especially those who work with children. One thing I believe is that shame is a terrible motivator. As someone who wore a pair of shame goggles for many years I never want to add to someone else's shame. The hard part is shame can seem effective, at least in the beginning because it shuts people down and their behavior does change. But it does not change anything for the better. But grace is a very hard thing to teach a six year old. We have a lot of conversations about the why’s of what she does and I pretty much only actually discipline for lying, fitting, arguing and disrespecting, unless it’s a repeat offense that needs to be addressed. But the general six year old stuff we try and work through and come up with alternative actions. I really try to have only necessary rules so I can follow through every time.

One of the reoccurring issues we’ve had is carelessness, which I know is a normal six year old thing, but believe that it’s my job to help teach her to be aware. Anyone who knows me moderately well knows the irony of me teaching someone to be careful because I myself struggle with this. I am a hot mess in so many regards. I drop things, trip, forget to close lids, hit my head, and bump things on a regular basis. The truth is my best is pretty pitiful in this area. I try to be careful but will spill my coffee at least a dozen times this year in my car. And maybe because it’s something I struggle with, I want more for this little girl who holds my heart. I don’t want her to have to experience the head tilt and knowing smile from her friends when she has a klutzy moment. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for those in my life who find this quality endearing or else I’d be alone, but I don’t like it and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. So yesterday when I heard the little “I need help” coming from the bathroom, it was no surprise to find a new roll of toilet paper in the dirty, unflushed toilet water. I could see from her face that she felt bad for it, so I bit my tongue and cleaned it up while she explained what happened. It was an accident and we all make mistakes so I wasn’t going to hammer the issue... until she came down the stairs a minute later talking about dying eggs and showing no remorse for what had happened. In that moment I knew I needed to reassess the roll of TP in dirty poopy water situation, so I asked her if she was being careful when it happened. In that moment she started to shut down and get the angry look in her eyes and her tone changed. I asked her what was going on and why she was getting upset and she said she felt like she was getting in trouble. I reassured her that I believed her that it was an accident and we’re good, but it doesn’t mean we can just ignore her not being careful because it's something she needs to be aware of. She had been treating my grace as if it was something that was cheap, but it wasn’t. I stuck my hand in poopy water for crying out loud. It had taken a lot of self control for me not to loose it at the mess she made... that I had to clean up. I didn’t begrudge her or it and wasn’t even angry I had to clean up her mess. I love her and it literally is my job, but I didn’t want her to think that grace is free and treat it like a flimsy Happy Meal toy. When we experience the grace of God it came at a great price to Jesus. For years I landed on the more legalistic side of things because I had not see a lot of true grace preached. I heard cheap grace and license that equated to “I’m forgiven so I can do whatever I want”, which is true, but not the whole truth. Living like that was like leaving grace in the poopy water and not appreciating the gift of the cross. Today, Good Friday, is a great reminder that grace is given to us freely but it came at a great cost. As I think back on all the grace extended to me yesterday alone, I a blown away. I pray I never forget the cost that was paid so that I may freely live out in the grace and freedom that comes from Jesus Christ.

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