It was the day before the big wedding and I don’t think I was breathing. I had so many things that I still wanted to get done: wield the Dyson extension to suck away the spider webs that have over-taken the top corners of every room, mop the floors, fill two little bowls with mints (one for the brides maids/ one for the groomsmen), and transplant a strawberry as a gift for the new couple. I had just whirled through the living room, wiping down the furniture as I went, when the next thing I knew, Lia asked for a snack.
She somehow ended up with a plate of apple slices and a blob of peanut butter in the living room. I went on my merry way, dusting and mopping and wiping and organizing, hardly pausing to exhale. UNTIL. The next time I walked back into the living room and saw peanut butter fingerprints all over the ottoman. I mean big ole’ blobs of peanut butter all over the ottoman. Like an oil painting. But peanut butter. The day before the big wedding. My whirlwind came to a screeching halt as I gathered my breath (finally) and exclaimed, “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!”
I think that’s the first time those words – in that way – have come out of my mouth. I was crushed. And so was Lia.
Oh, those poor little baby browns that looked up at me… she didn’t know what had happened to her momma. My response made her afraid of me, and of herself. The look on her face seemed to say, “If Mommy is appalled by my behavior, I must be a very frightening and bad girl.” In a moment’s time, my heart melted into repentance as I asked myself, “What have you done? You just made your child feel like a criminal for being three.” I continued to breathe as we cleaned up the mess together and I sent her on her merry three-year-old way. I hope she lightened up and simply learned the importance of being responsible even if Mommy or Daddy give her peanut butter in the living room, but I hope I learned an important lesson, too: The lesson of accepting her badness. As her Mother and as a Christian, that’s one of my biggest jobs. I don’t approve of her badness, but I accept it, and should never be shocked by it.
Remember when Jesus met the woman at the well? She was bad. But He didn’t act shocked or disappointed or personally offended by her badness. He didn’t ask her what she had done (she probably was wondering herself!). Instead, He told her what she had done, and she was so happy to finally hear it in all of its messiness. So, she ran into town yelling, “Come and meet a man who told me everything I ever did!” Boy, was she happy to have someone accept and explain her badness. It’s what made her receive Jesus’ goodness.
That’s the kind of mother I want to be. I want to be ready for my children to be children. I don’t want to be so shocked at peanut butter fingerprints that my three year old has to explain why she was immature and careless. I never again want to ask, “What have you done?” Nah, we all ask ourselves that very question daily as we face our weaknesses and sin. Instead, I want to answer her. And when she is bad – whether in childishness or sinfulness – I want to explain what she has done so that she can receive Jesus’ grace, forgiveness, and guidance.