Grace used to be tough concept for me to wrap my mind around. I’m not talking about the smooth, coordinated movement kind of grace; I’m talking about the special favor, exemption variety.
After all, we don’t live in a graceful world. We live in a get-ahead-at-all-costs, don’t-get-mad-get-even world. In fact, I think that I could justify never extending grace to anyone and that would be socially acceptable because we are conditioned to stand up for ourselves and not be doormats.
Although I can think of instances where the non-graceful approach to life is appropriate, one area where it is absolutely not acceptable is parenting.
I live with a tween girl. Which means I’m often the target of rants, rages, screams and hollers. I am accused weekly of not loving her, of favoring her sister, of not being a good mom and of not caring enough about her life. Occasionally, she even tells me that she hates me.
And, while her dad and I do address her use of hurtful words and her lack of respect after her hormone-induced fury ebbs, we find ourselves in a place where we have to continually offer grace to this young woman.
Sometimes, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in her crazy. My fight-or-flight response is triggered during our disagreements and it’s a challenge not to strike back. Being the adult, I could easily take her down, crushing her with my words. But if I were to abuse my power over her in such a way, I would devastate her.
There is only thing that explains how I can be rational enough not to retaliate against my daughter in those tense moments. Unconditional love.
It is unconditional love that allows grace. It is unconditional love that gives me the presence of mind to understand that those times when she is the most difficult are when she needs the most compassion. It is love that tells me not to take her at face value and instead see the hurt beneath the surface. It is love that opens the slammed door and takes her in my arms to give her the hug she needs. Even if I feel like I’m cuddling a porcupine.
I didn’t fully understand grace until I had kids. I thought I did. I thought that I was able to extend grace to my husband and family, but what I thought was grace was actually forgiveness that reserved the right to dig up the past.
But the kind of grace I’m finally starting to grasp, in a small way, is the Biblical kind.
And Biblical grace is for everyone, not just the ones you love. It’s for those pain-in-the-butt people too. Which makes it hard.
However, I want my girls to be graceful people. So I have to model that behavior for them.
Even when I don’t want to.
Even when society tells me I don’t have to.
I have to be the person who cares less about being right and more about being loving and that goes against almost every fiber of my being.
But that’s what I need to do.
Because my kids are watching.