Grace at the Table

P1040095 2Grace abounds every day.  But sometimes we miss it.  Instead of seeing grace, we see our own shortcomings.  Instead of seeing growth, we see how far there is yet to travel.  Instead of having a burden lifted, we are weighed down in our own failings.

If we live like that, we miss far more than just the grace.  We miss the love that is poured out through it, the overwhelming relief that can be found there.

Tonight, we spoke grace around our kitchen table.  Not the rote responsibility that comes before a meal.  No.  This was the deep grace showered on repentant hearts.  The sweet wafts of fellowship that follows storms of conflict when grace is on our lips.

Our last few days have seen a storm brewing, then pouring out over us all.  Sunshine and Little Man, these two so like me, clashed and it rang across days.

Some of it was Sunshine’s fault.  She has waited and waited to say anything about her frustrations and it became too much.  She isn’t used to a nine year old and constant bodily noises.  She doesn’t always understand this little ball of energy trying to get all up in her personal space.

Some of it was my fault.  I was not reading the signs of strife.  I was quick to patch the problem and not so fast to listen to the underlying issues.

Some of it was Little Man’s fault.  He was consistently and deliberately oblivious to his rude behavior.  He didn’t read the signs of frustration as a suggestion to stop, but rather a hilarious challenge to continue.

And some of it was the gap that exists because of the difference in their age, gender, and culture.  Sunshine doesn’t have a brother so she mistook energy for deliberate attacks.  Little Man didn’t think to try any new ways to relate and communicate, so he shrugged and gave up.

But most of it was each of us, in our own ways, being selfish, desiring our own comfort and ease instead of trying to find connection.

In the last few days, this has become quite apparent.  An increase of annoying behavior on the part of Little Man.  An increase of isolation and eye rolling on the part of Sunshine.  And an increase of frustration and mismanagement on mine.

It all came to a head when Little Man decided that shouting in Sunshine’s face while she was asleep would be a good idea.  It was not.

She refused to forgive him.  She told me that his apology was not sincere and I had coached him and spoiled him.  She would not accept it.

And in the course of her frustrated fury, she revealed some of the hurts in her own life that added to the pain of Little Man’s attitude toward her.

And there it was.  She needed grace.

This wasn’t just about Christmas siblings bickering.  This was about a hurting girl speaking out of her own experiences.

And I needed to listen.  And so did Little Man.

I had a long talk with Little Man and told him that sometimes the consequences of his behavior go beyond mom discipline.  Sometimes, the consequences mean you hurt a relationship.  Sometimes you break it in a way that an “I’m sorry” just won’t cover.

That’s a hard lesson to learn.  And it broke him.  I saw the soul of him, raw before me.  He wanted to connect so badly, but he was at a loss about how to do it.

He needed grace, too.  And I didn’t know how to make that happen.  He needed to show her that he wanted to change, and perhaps then the grace would come.

So the next day, he showed her his heart by taking her phone without asking and playing games on it until the battery died.

Not exactly what I was going for there, buddy.

But then something happened.  Because there, amid yet another failure, was grace.

Sunshine poured it out in buckets and buckets.

Little Man had taken her phone when we were at a relative’s house.  She saw it, was rightly very upset about it….but chose to remain silent.  It was not until we returned home that she asked me to please talk to him about it and tell him that he needs to ask for permission first.

I was now the one broken.

This amazing girl, who has had so many things taken from her, who has lost so much, who has every right to cling to the things that are truly hers in this strange land…she lays it all down and instead shows mercy and kindness.

How can I even find words for that kind of grace?

And so I sat with Little Man at the kitchen table, and I laid that out for him.  If the situation had been reversed, what would he have done?  Wails of complaining would have rained down, he admitted.  Why didn’t she do that?  She certainly had a right to.

And he blinked.   I don’t know, he said.  She should have.

She joined us at the table.

I pointed out the grace that she had shown.  I told her I admired her.  That I loved her.

And then a little voice spoke.  “I love you, too,” he said.  “I just don’t know how to show you.  I don’t know how to relate to you.”

Grace.  Grace to admit wrongs.

Together, they enumerated his failings.  His unkindnesses.  And this child of mine, this passionate, emotional one, who usually broils and bristles his way through conflict because he can’t find the words fast enough to spill his soft heart out of his mouth…this child spoke with slow, broken English so that he could carefully lay his sins out at her feet.

It was beautiful.

And then, more grace.

Sunshine spoke to her hurts.  She was brutally honest.  She told him how his slights and rude behavior stung her.  And then she spoke about the ways he has blessed her.  She sees what he has given up for her to be here.  And she listed them.  His room.  His time.  His routines.  His preferences.  His sole ownership of his mom.  She saw his heart.  She saw his efforts.

And he returned with a list of things that he knew she gave up, too.  Her language.  Her familiar surroundings.  Her friends.  And he was honest, too, and said he was out of ideas about how to relate to her.

So together, us three, we listed grace.  We named the things that each of us could do to love one another more.  We came up with ideas for Little Man.    We forgave offenses.

We said grace.  Over and over.

And then, when we were done, we played games around the table.  Hours and hours we sat around that table, each picking another game to play, teaching each other new ones.  A resilient girl and repentant boy and a grateful mama.

By the end of the evening, to someone else, our table might have looked like a cluttered mess of game pieces and cards, half open boxes and half eaten snacks.  But I know what it really was.

It was a communion of grace spread out like a bounty right there on my kitchen table.

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