Monday, December 22, 2008

Thy Mercy, My God

Today I witnessed the unbelievable, and I experienced the unbelievable. My eight-year old daughter - the child who has required more discipline than all three of her siblings combined, and who is still extremely challenging to parent well - looked up at me and uttered the words, "Mom, thank you for spanking me."

No, she had not just received a spanking. (Even she, who required them much later than her siblings, has mostly outgrown the need for that form of discipline.) Instead, she had just witnessed an interchange between a mother and son in front of us in the checkout line. It went something like this:

(imagine an angry, sassy, demanding voice, increasing in volume and vehemence with each word): "You are going to buy me this book right now, you stupid, stupid woman!" As he punctuated each utterance of the word "stupid" with force and volume, I cringed. And I looked down at EL, whose eyes were wide as saucers as she looked up at me, and back to him. He continued with various utterances of things like, "You'd better do it. Right now. You are going to get this for me..." until the next thing captured his attention. This was the fact that he wanted to buy something from the coin-operated vending machine near the door. "You give me a quarter right now, you woman. You better do it right now!" Bear in mind that this kid is about EL's age, so we're talking a big boy screaming these sorts of disrespectful things at his mother.

I'm not sure what I think, quite frankly. On the one hand, this is shameful, awful behavior. I am glad that EL was shocked and appalled. And yet, I'm so pleased that I felt compassion and grief, not judgment, for this woman. On any given day, the words themselves would be different, but any one of my used-to-be-little-but-getting-bigger ones might throw some tone my way that reflects just as much ugliness and rebellion and defiance in their hearts. Or me toward my husband, for that matter.

There was a day - I cringe to remember and sheepishly admit - when I thought I "had this parenting thing down pretty well." But the Lord is merciful, and He never leaves us alone in our pride and arrogance and self-sufficiency. And so He gave me little sinners in my home... four of them, living alongside us two big ones... who are perfect little reflections of the besetting sins of their parents.

And so, dear sweet woman, I will pray for you, and for your son, and for my children, and for myself. May we always "weep for the praise of the mercy (we've) found."

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