Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Grace For My Four Year Old

"It isn't fair!" little Ruthie implored.
"What's not fair?" I replied.
"Olivia gets to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I don't want to eat Spanish rice!"
"Do you know why we are letting Olivia eat something different?"
"We want Olivia to enjoy sitting at the table with us as a family. And, we want her to learn good table manners and learn to eat bigger amounts of food."
"But it still isn't fair! She's getting what I want and it isn't fair!" And with that, Ruthie's eyes welled with tears and her lips began to quiver. In her little world, dinner had turned into a social injustice of sorts and she was getting the proverbial short end of the stick.

I could see things from her perspective. Here was her little, baby sister getting her way (again) and she was being forced to follow a different set of rules. A set of rules she didn't particularly like or agree with. But, they are rules she understands and is capable of following. As I sat on the couch with my pouting 4-year-old, trying to explain why we extend grace in various forms to each child, I had that funny experience we all have as believing parents. I could already hear that little whisper in my heart, "Come away with Me so we can talk about this. I have some things to show you about My grace."

After I settled Ruthie back at the table, I escaped to the desk and my Bible to listen more intently. I was drawn to the parable of the landowner and the vineyard (Matthew Chapter 20:1-16) who went looking for workers to work his land. He promised each of three groups of laborers a denarius for their work. The problem came when each group of workers was paid at the end of the day. Upon seeing their fellow workers--who had only worked an hour--receive a denarius, the first group of workers--who had worked all day--believed they would be paid more. But that was not the case. Each worker received equal pay. Equal pay for unequal work. brain was letting that one sink in. Then these words caught my eye:

"Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?" Matthew 20:15

Oooohhhh. That's such a great question! Am I envious of God's generosity with others? Am I jealous of the particular grace He washes others in because He doesn't bathe me in the same manner? I thought back to my conversation with Ruthie. I had explained to her that Olivia is only two and so we extend grace to her because she isn't able to follow as many rules or understand all of our meal time rules yet. I shared with her that when she was two, we also excused her from eating everything the rest of us ate at meal time and focused on making sure she could enjoy meal time and develop manners for meals. She smiled at that and then asked, "But, why do I have to follow different rules?" I told her that she was older and smarter and able to understand more rules so Daddy and I hold her accountable to different rules. I could tell she wasn't entirely thrilled with my answer or explanation, but she was no longer pouting. We prayed together and thanked God for the food He had provided and asked God to help Ruthie obey at the table. She hugged me and apologized and skipped back to the table.

Staring at the black and white of the Word, I started wondering if I've been pouting like my four-year-old. Do I run to God crying because I see Him being generous to someone else in an area I'd like to have more blessings in? I came up with a little list...well, at least the things I'm willing to admit:

Pregnancy. Some of my friends love being pregnant. They literally glow and are just happy being "with child." They don't swell or gain too much weight or get crabby or have backaches or sore feet or headaches. It's an enjoyable experience for them.
Finances. God is completely faithful to meet each and every need we have and even some of our wants, but we live prayercheck to prayercheck. It's hard to see others blessed with opportunities to purchase furniture, new cars, new clothes, and vacations.
Teaching Gifts. This is a struggle for me, especially as we home school. Some of the people I'm closest with (including my husband!) have amazing gifts of teaching and are able to really explain information to others. This is not one of my areas of strength.

There are other areas I struggle with, but these are ones I think God is pointing out right now. Just like Ruthie, instead of focusing on obeying the Lord and enjoying the tremendous grace He has poured out on me, I'm focusing on areas in which I think He has short-changed me. But He hasn't short-changed me at all! Just the opposite:

But You, O Lord are a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.
Turn to me, and be gracious to me;
Oh grant Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your handmaid.
Psalm 86:15-16

God is loving and just and kind and merciful and truthful. In my own human-ness, I don't see the big picture. I don't see why He extends grace to others and not to me in particular areas. And I don't need to.
What I do need to see is that He is my Father and that His love for me and ways for me are perfect. He offers grace to me in each breath He gifts to me.

Lord, God, give me the grace to live each moment of each day for You. Help me to walk in obedience to You. Give me strength and be gracious unto me. In Your Name, Amen.


Ann said...

...and remember there are other areas, like hospitality, cooking, and wise encouragement that God has given you larger portions of -- you're heaping with other kinds of grace :)