I still remember the mix of adolescent shame and fear I felt as I sat helplessly waiting for my parents to arrive watched over by a mall security officer.
I don’t remember exactly why I was there but I know it had to do with several teenaged boys being foolish and irresponsible. I know I knew better, and my parents’ Proverbial instruction about a “companion of fools” suffering harm surely echoed in my mind, but I had listened to the wrong voices.
And now I was faced with the moment I had no desire to reach–the moment when I had to call my parents and tell them what had happened.I had done something stupid and I had no excuses.
The sense of dread I was feeling seemed to grow with every second and minute that ticked off as I waited for my parents to arrive. When my dad finally got there, I was ready for the axe to fall. He took care of business and we headed for the car. I climbed in the front seat with a full expectation of a stern lecture, parental admonitions, and some well-targeted Scriptures. To be sure, those would come later, but in the darkness of the night, and my own emotions and spirit, dad’s response was not what I expected.
As we headed by home, I heard no expressions of “I’m so disappointed in you, Nathan” or “What in the world were you thinking, Nathan? You’re a Clarkson!” I deserved those admonitions. No argument there. But this was not the moment for them.
Instead, I heard something like, “Nathan, I know you are feeling bad about what you’ve done, and you should. But I also want you to know that we all do dumb things. You can’t undo what you did with just an “I’m sorry,” but you can learn from it so you won’t have to be sorry again. God wants you to learn from your sin, not be defeated by it. God is for you, and so are we.”
I didn’t expect that. I expected, well, the axe to fall. I expected the sharp edge of guilt to slice through my spirit. But it didn’t.
My dad’s gentle and uncondemning words caught me off guard. Disarmed me. Put my spirit at ease. After a few more comments, the tension seemed to drift out the open windows and the summer wind of God’s Spirit blew through the car. Soon we were talking about movies, and what the week ahead held.
At home mom had dinner almost ready. She asked me if I had talked to dad. I told her I had. Like dad, she expressed some concerns and scriptures, but soon said, “You’re a good boy, Nathan. Your actions weren’t necessarily good tonight, but that doesn’t change who God has made you to be. I believe God will help you grow stronger in him because of this. I think we can learn from this and move on. We love you, Nathan.”
There it was. Grace. Unconditional love. Forgiveness. It was displayed clearly and beautifully through the people that meant the most to me in the world. I had lost grace for a short time with my foolish companions, but I had found grace where I needed it most. It was not just a concept. I could see it, hear it, and feel it.
I knew I didn’t deserve it. It was like a gift. And because of that I knew I would learn from this situation. I wanted to learn from it. Grace made me want to be better.
What I didn’t know is that in that very moment my view of God was being shaped. At that time in my life, I was deciding and learning who God was, what he was, and how I would see him for the rest of my life. And because my parents chose to respond to my foolishness and failure with love, not condemnation and guilt, I began to see past them to a God that I have grown to know and follow. Their love showed me his love.
That was a few years ago. Thanks to God, and my very patient and longsuffering parents I would soon give up my rebellious ways of suffering harm at the hands of foolish teenaged companions. I am still human, and I still fall and mess up in different ways. But because of my parents’ gentle grace through the years, I have a picture in my mind and spirit of what love, forgiveness, and grace really is. I now look to God when I fall or trip and feel his grace and see his forgiveness. It is as though I can hear him saying to me, “Let’s just learn from this and move on. I love you.”
Parents are the first view of God kids will ever see.
What we see acted out towards us as we are growing and finding out for ourselves who this God is that our parents are asking us to follow is what shape our understanding of our heavenly Father. When you show love to your children, they will learn what it means to be loved by God. The same goes for forgiveness, grace, peace, acceptance, and more.
My parents had every right that night to respond to my failure with judgment, anger, and disappointment. And it would have forever colored, to some degree, how I viewed God. But they showed me love. And that has colored how I view the God I now love and follow.
So, as you spend time with your kids in the days ahead, I encourage you to remember that you are the first picture of God they will see. No pressure.
Question: What is ONE THING you can do today to give grace to your boys and help them see God’s love through you?
Don’t forget the 2nd Annual Boy Mom Bloghop!
Originally posted at the MOB Society on 1/10/12