Last night was not my finest parenting moment. By the time Jon returned from the store, I finally sat on the couch alone. (All is grace when you’re down to the last roll of toilet paper and your husband volunteers to make the trip).

The scene that greeted him as he walked through the front door was quiet and dimly lit but, moments before, it would’ve told a different tale: a loud, wet one showcasing me losing my cool, practically forcing a child into the shower.

Why won’t she do what I tell her, when I tell her? I had no idea the cracks on the ceiling were so engaging. When my clock strikes “done” and I’m burned like a steak, my flesh shouts loud, Must this parenting go on 24/7 ? CAN’T A GIRL GET A BREAK!?

Catching my breath in the aftermath, I didn’t feel good about the way I’d handled things. Felt ashamed to say words that wound and conjure thoughts that maim.

The following morning–before light begins its steady pour through wooden blinds–I climb a white ladder, ford soft animals and pastel fabrics, and spoon in close to her. I’d already asked her forgiveness, but guilt still hangs ’round my neck like cement and this early-morning visit is my self-inflicted penance.

If I can show her I love her, instead of just tell her, I think. This sacrifice of time and much-coveted personal space speaks volumes more than any words I say, any praise I give.

Later I drive her to school, saying “I’m sorry” once again just in case she didn’t get it the first two times. Her glib “Okay” leaves me uncertain.

“Does this mean you forgive me?” (I can’t help it. I’ll punish myself until I know she’s set me free).

“Yep,” she says nonchalantly, stepping onto the curb and pointing herself in the direction of the hallway. And then she does something she doesn’t have to. She turns back, shines a million-dollar smile, and gives me a wave of her hand. I catch them both and breathe them in.

But for grace I’d be a prisoner in a jail of my own making.

I look around the rooms of my heart and see both life and death sharing small spaces. Yes, death was defeated. The grave couldn’t hold Jesus. But, the reality is, I let it grip me some.

Just when I think I’m stuck for good, Jesus looks at me with eyes of love and calls me out of the heavy jacket of death my flesh seeks to keep me in. All the while he holds out a solitary robe.

I want to look down, apologize, tell him Really, it’s okay. What I’ve been wearing will do.

He flashes me a no-way-Jose look and says, Don’t take matters into your own hands, selecting clothes that no longer fit, and discount what I’ve done for you.  When he puts it like that, what can I say?

It’s gleaming white and, as I slip in my arms, it’s so soothing I scarce can take it in. It seems unfair. It is unfair. That she and others will receive wounds by my tongue and that by his stripes those same wounds are healed.

After dropping her at school I turn the van around the bend and head out onto open road, finally free from the heaviness. But I can’t attribute my lightness of spirit back to her resilience only. All roads of grace point back to Jesus. They always do.

I’m tempted, as a parent, to hide my weakness. What a costly mistake that would be. Without vulnerability the message kids receive is: Only show your best side, your brave face. Keep your flaws, disagreements and un-proud moments packed tight behind closed doors.

Sounds slippery and dangerous.

NO. I choose weak. If it kills me, I will go down in history as the parent who couldn’t get it right. I’ll hurt them and they’ll hurt me but, Lord willing, if I model anything in the messy aftermath, it will be a sharp need for Jesus. One that cuts to the quick.

But then–and especially then–I’ll show them how to move forward. Freshly bathed and cleanly clothed. By grace alone. And the outstretched arm and that waiting robe? What a shame it would be to leave them hanging.

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