This is Week 2 in a series of Tuesday grace conversations. To catch up to this point, you can see Week 1 – Grace that begins it all.
A few weeks ago, my oldest daughter played the lead in her fourth grade class play. We couldn’t see her face, and she spoke no lines. Covered head to toe as a pile of homework, she grew. She shrunk. She teetered. She did the macarena. She was brilliant.
After the play, I walked into the crowded fourth grade classroom on the 3rd floor for a punch and cookie reception. I was dressed as a fairy crossing guard (it was Halloween) and held the hands of my two little fairies. As the reception finished, Sici’s teacher motioned me over to her desk.
“I just wanted to check in with you and see if you’d be ok with Sici having a mentor,” she said, eyes wide. “There’s this great woman, a friend of mine. She was valedictorian at the University of Texas and valedictorian in her masters program. She’s very bright. I thought she and Sici could meet once a month and talk about college and careers.”
I told her I thought that would be great, that we’ve talked with our (very mature) girl about various career paths and that we’re always open to including other adults who encourage her to explore and engage mind, heart, dreams.
Sici’s teacher squinted her eyes, tilted her head and scrunched up her mouth a touch as if to express that I was still missing the point. “Yeah, I just really think it would be great for Sici to have a relationship with a smart, empowered woman.”
Her words hit me like a thick piece of wood.
“That sounds great,” I managed to say. Head swirling, I walked to where my girls stood, took their hands and left the room, lavender chiffon bow trailing behind me.
I felt so small.
As we walked through the doors of the school, my skin prickled. My eyes brimmed. I was hurt.
As we drove home, I burned — angry offense deep in my gut.
As I posed my girls on the front steps for a Halloween photo shoot, I thought of all the things I could tell Sici’s teacher about my work background, my education, my GPA.
As I snapped photos, I thought I would tell her that my decision to be a stay-at-home-mom was the choice of a smart and empowered woman, thank you very much.
I raged at her small-mindedness, the way she’d insulted me, misunderstood who I am. The way she’d put words to the subtle (and yet clear) messages I’d received many times over the years about the ways I was limiting myself by staying at home, how I must “just be dying to get out of the house for some adult interaction.”
While I seethed, the girls squabbled and jockeyed for position on the front steps. One fairy complained to her stop sign sister that she was being jabbed in the face. The fairy refused to be part of any more pictures. When she came near again, stop sign head knocked her.
I gave up on the photo shoot, brought the girls inside and yelled at them my frustration and disappointment that they couldn’t pose like normal human beings who like each other for a few pickin’ Halloween pictures. Told them they’d be sorry someday when they looked back on special occasions to see I could hardly ever get one with everybody smiling and getting along. That I was sick of the squabbling, just sick of it.
“I need to be alone!” I yelled and stomped downstairs to the basement.
Then I did what any frustrated, angry and empowered woman in my position would do. I called my mama.
Body stiff, voice shaking, I told her about the teacher:
“I should let her know…”
“Doesn’t she know that…?”
“I want to tell her…”
“You’re right,” she said. “I’m sure I would feel the same way in your position. But maybe she’s not a good communicator. Maybe she meant…”
And then the truth: “You can’t go wrong with grace.”
Grace, that greatest of gifts. The overflow made possible only by the filling. The choice to overlook offense because I have offended. To endure being misunderstood because I have misunderstood. To choose forgiveness because I have been forgiven.
In this moment I saw grace as a choice among others. I might be justified in creating a sit-down
confrontation conversation with the teacher. Or closing off relationship with her. Or holding onto my rightness in a tucked-away place that would become hardened to her kindness, my good opinions of her as a teacher.
Or I could choose to bend in grace, like branches grafted to the curving vine, sustained by the Source.
The choice was mine.
I could choose to snap like a dry limb, rigid in my sense of justice, or I could bend to the greater way.
Not bend to words that wrongly define me, not bend into the beliefs of a person who does not know me.
But bend. To the Master’s way. The way of grace.
I took a deep breath and walked upstairs to my girls and saw their faces — sorrowful expressions I’d placed on them with my un-contained disappointment, and I knew the way of removing those shame masks in that moment only by routine. Apologize, ask forgiveness, express love and affirmation.
Bend by grace.
“I’m sorry, girls,” I began. “Mama was frustrated about something else, and I handled myself poorly. I took my frustration out on you. I lost my temper. Would you please forgive me?”
“I forgive you,” they said in chorus.
And then grace.
Precious 3-year-old girl looked into my eyes. Her dark pools, filled with tenderness. “You’re a good mommy,” she said. Then with little arms, she wrapped herself around my waist and squeezed hard.
Those tender eyes. Those words. That embrace. A gift. A lavish gift — like grace — because in that moment her love and affirmation of me as mama was so unexpected and so wholly undeserved.
That which I’d chosen gradually bit by bit to give to another, I struggled to give myself. I’d failed them. I’d spewed ugly. But my little one chose grace. Saw grace. Spoke grace. Lived grace to me.
I was blessed by the unexpected and undeserved. Blessed by grace.
In that moment, my little one’s grace covered hurt places felt inside and lived outside. Her grace blessing taught me of His.
Thank you, God, for this Grace.
In future Tuesdays — Grace that breaks. Grace that births.