I’ve been learning a thing or two or twenty about weakness lately. About recognizing my limitations, admitting my need. About surrendering clenched hands to receive what is better, truer.

I will keep learning this.

It often is a soul-baring experience to write in this place, to put my weaknesses and missteps out there in front of you, in the process of living life. I’ve told you this, and it continues to be true.

In spite of the fact that you are incredibly loving and supportive readers, I am still getting to know you, so I hold with me the shred of fear that I will be judged and found lacking when you’ve got the accumulation of my stuff in a pile, or when you happen upon me and see only a glimpse into who I am.

As I struggled with yesterday’s post about the rage-filled mom, her hurting children and my own feelings about what I saw and how inadequate my own response, I felt the still, small voice that said, “Write it, write it.”

And so my prayer was, “I will. God, please make good from this.”

I believe prayer changes things. I have known it true in my life over and over again. Prayer brings peace. Prayer brings conviction. Prayer brings the knowledge that we are held. Prayer brings the awareness that we are not alone. Prayer brings transformation, metamorphosis, renewal, life.

So when my family and I prayed for that woman and her family, and when you joined us in praying for them yesterday, you agreed with life and hope.

And when we don’t know what to do, and when we think we do, and when we pray for struggling others and our struggling selves, we agree with what is good, and we say, come on earth, as it is in heaven.

I believe that God is displayed on earth in myriad ways — through stirrings of hearts, through the splendor of nature, through His Word.

Through people.

This is one reason I love community so much. That my God-given strengths have a place to bless, and your God-given strengths — they bless me, too. And weakness has a blessed place — not only before God, but also before one another.

So yesterday, I spoke what I saw and where I fell short. I laid my failings before you. As I did, my heart stirred with the questions,

how can we bless the hurting child?

how can we bless the hurting mother?

what is required of us?

This morning, I read Zechariah 7:9, which says we are to “administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.”

Justice.

Mercy.

Compassion.

Actions and responses of the hands and heart. The responses of those who do not turn away.

Yesterday, as I read your comments, I saw justice, mercy and compassion, from the places of your own hearts and experiences.

I saw you seeking to understand.

I am grateful that in admitting my weakness, I gained new understanding, tools and a broader way of seeing what I wrote about yesterday.

I wanted to share with you some of your own words…

Elizabeth

I know when I have either been close to the edge or witnessed it like you it is not a calm place. It is a panicked place. But I thought it interesting to try to help the Mom in that situation. Watch the kids? Hold some bags? Entertain a crying child for a moment? Help her load her car with groceries while she strapped kids in car seats?

Don

In the immediate, you did what you could to lessen the trauma to your children. You taught them a positive lesson, even if one tempered with pain, as unfortunately, many important ones in life are…But, almost as importantly, you have enacted as you know, an important force through calling for prayer. We are all reeds in the wind of the universe, and our prayers are in the wind.

Spree

When we feel helpless in a situation with nothing to do but call on God, we do. (And i stand with you in prayer for these and all the children growing up in a dark tide of terror – and for all of us whose anger seizes control of our mouths and bodies.)…Does someone out there have words to speak to an angry parent?… don’t we need to be prepared to speak or do something next time? How do we defend the children without further angering the parent?

Susan

Approach the woman, gently smile, be respectful of her space, quietly introduce yourself, ask “How may I support you right now? One woman to another, one mother to another. You seem to be having a particularly bad day. We all have bad days. Is there something I can do to help you?”
This woman is used to scaring people and that makes her feel powerful. Her defense is to scare others so she can pretend she’s not scared herself.
Love is stronger than fear. The Holy Spirit is not afraid of her, God loves her. Do you think she ever avails herself of that unconditional love?
We get to be “Jesus with skin on” to those who have not encountered unconditional love. We get to be strong and courageous because He is with us to confront others who are mistreating His children. She was mistreated too, so she has learned how to bully. But where will she learn Love?
It’s messy, but it’s worth taking a chance.

Barb

I experienced this similar situation years ago…I have thought about that woman and her children more times than I can count over the years and it happened more than 12 years ago. In my prayers for her and her children, I also give thanks for all that I have been given – starting with a family who showered me with love, and then I re-commit to try and do the same for my own children.

Katie (via Facebook)

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

Shannon

I think you could not have done more yourself, other than call DHS, considering your own children were present and needed to be kept safe…However, during your reflection, may you consider what you may have done if you were alone and saw that woman? Although you may not have been able to stop the woman from emotionally abusing her children… that by offering “to help”, or telling the woman it was “wrong” (no matter how clutzy or imperfectly), you would have called attention to the sin. The children with her would have received the message that this adult’s behavior was wrong, which is a huge distinction in a situation like this. When no one does anything in a situation like this, it makes the sin normal, cloaks it, as though “nothing is wrong”. The children learn that it is normal to be treated this way, it is normal, and no one will care enough to change it. In confronting the woman, you might have sown a seed of hope in the children, even if you may have received some harsh words from the mom, but the kids would have gotten the message that they were worth standing up for. As it stands, it was more important for everyone else to take care of their own business. The safety of those children with that woman was worth less than our own personal risk of being emotionally hurt or offended momentarily.

Maria

I SO appreciate the grace you showed this woman…I echo your prayers for this family. And ask you pray the same for mine. That I would continue to learn how to be the adult and not another child in my household.

Tami (via Facebook)

Our words are so important – life giving or depleting. Sometimes even “that look” we give our kids can leave them shameful.

I would love for this conversation to continue. What does it look like for you to act with justice, mercy and compassion in such situations? Do you have wisdom to share with us about how you have or would like to respond to people on the edge?

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