“When something hurts this much there must be a reason. There must be someone to blame.” From the movie The Tale of Despereaux
His four foot frame stood paralyzed as the crazy woman shouted in his face. Foolishly she chose to greet his defiance by abandoning self-control. What would more yelling at her child result in? Obedience? Stupid woman. Doesn’t she know it’s the kindness of God that leads to repentance, not her demeaning screams or demands?
Stupid. Stupid. Woman.
His once fierce look began to cower before her. He couldn’t take anymore. No defiance warrants this treatment. Tears welled up in his eyes, and his face turned red. The woman fell silent as she watched in shock her young son’s heart break into pieces right before her. But she was still stupid, and with red hot anger racing through her veins she refused to give in without one last yell. And what would you expect from a boy of eight-years old, but to run from her. He ran and locked himself inside a little purple bathroom with only a toilet and a small window.
The image of his tears staining his face, the way he broke down made her even angrier—not at him. No. Not at First Boy. She was angry…I was angry at myself for hurting my son’s heart.
“Oh God. What have I done?”
I leaned up against the bathroom door sobbing at the mess I had made. I had lost it. I was angry at life, not at him; and my boy—my beautiful boy—took the brunt of it. And now what? How can a mother ever repair the damage done to her child’s heart?
When a child turns, runs away and escapes from a parent—it’s an obvious sign they don’t feel safe. The moment mocks me as I am reminded how I am known to be s.a.f.e. to many. But to my boy—I was not.
I didn’t blame him. Not one bit. There is much to be said about the great benefits of developing character in children, but if you want to know the truth, character training starts first with the parents. It starts with me. Always.
I know First Boy well. His persistence and drive is much like his Daddy’s, but his heart is tender to the touch like his Momma’s. I know his need for space and to be alone to sort it all out in heart and head, but I also know when his heart is ready for holding.
This boy, First Boy, my boy—needed his heart held. Would he trust me? Would he give me a chance? What do you do when the one who holds hearts becomes the one who is no longer safe? You pray—no—you plead with Jesus for unity, forgiveness and grace.
My heart full of remorse and repentance I quietly unlocked the door using a bobby pin. Slowly and silently I opened the door. What I saw next was not what I was expecting. I imagined my 8-year old sitting down on the lid of the toilet with his head in his hands…
Instead I saw my boy 5 feet in the air sitting on the open windowsill with his legs and head dangling out of our two story house.
He needed more space than the little purple room could give.
I knew better not to shriek at his seemingly dangerous position. I could tell his tears had stopped and the open air on his face calmed him; the holy breath of God blowing peace into his hurting heart.
I tenderly touched his back and he turned to see me there. His eyes were broken, yet kind. He had no words, yet he welcomed me into his space. This here was grace. Grace in the midst of a broken and messy moment. He sat quietly with the soft sun glowing on his face and legs.
He seemed strangely at ease sitting there with his legs and feet dangling over the ledge, and yet it was me, who shook at the sight of it all. I grieved as I wondered if I could ever mend his heart. Would every heart break send him to the edge or a ledge?
What if the next time the patio cover didn’t suspend seven feet below to catch him if he fell? What if the next time it would be on a ledge he hoped to jump from?
How many more heartbreaks can a boy survive? I wonder how to protect him from my own brokenness. I want so much to be 110% perfect—to never mess up, not for my sake, but for his. Truth is, even if I were to pull off the holy and blameless life there are a billion other people and influences that will speak into his heart who aren’t so perfect.
“It’s not your fault,” I say to him, tears pour down my face. “I wasn’t angry at you, but I took out my anger on you.”
He leaned back to allow me to pull him out of the window frame. I set his feet on the lid of the toilet. He now stands a foot taller than me. I looked up to see his solemn face looking down at me.
My sobs escaped again and I chose to let First Boy see his mother’s remorse. “It wasn’t right. I was wrong. I’m sorry—for everything I said to you.”
“Will you forgive me?”
I hold his heart tenderly in that tiny purple room as Grace enfolds my soul through the embrace of a child, and joy returns to my boy.
I originally wrote this post in April 2012. And today, fifteen months later, I finally dare to hit publish for you to read. And really it’s not so much of a dare—I’m in such a different place since then…so is First Boy. But one thing I heard loud and clear was the truth the Lord whispered to me this morning…
“Beloved, I never saw you as a stupid woman… always as a forgiven woman.”
Overwhelmed by His grace.
Where do you need His exponential grace today?
Music for Your Soul (click on song title)
How He Loves by Kim Walker-Smith