There she stood in the nursing room at church, screaming at me while stomping her tiny feet. All 3 feet and 33 pounds shook with the unfairness of life and the injustice of having such a cruel mother. Ten minutes earlier I had carried this screeching, writhing 5 year old out of the sanctuary, looking like I was manhandling a cat I’d just tried to baptize. It was a long walk up the aisle under the gaze of a thousand eyeballs. We made it into the nursing room without being stopped, most likely because people probably thought my kid was either possessed or sick and in either case didn’t wish to risk catching anything. Demonic or otherwise.
The truth was much more terrible, however. I had denied her the row at church she wanted to sit in. Yes, it’s true. I had told her "no" to where she had wanted to sit and moved her back...
Technically it was just one seat back but apparently it was one seat too many. That simple “no” had touched off an atomic chain emotional reaction and turned my sweet and precious baby girl into a real life Tasmanian devil.
I sat in a rocking chair in the nursing room and watched as she paraded every possible emotion before me. From sadness, to indignation, to rage, in an attempt to change my mind. I said nothing. I tried pulling her onto my lap to comfort her but she repeatedly pushed away my advances. So I just sat quietly. Gradually, little by little, she calmed down. Finally she wiped her face where the tears had made highways down her cheeks, and in a soft-hiccupy little voice, asked if we could go back into the sanctuary, to the row I wanted to sit in.
I gently scooped her into my arms to hug her, told her how much I loved her, and we walked, hand in hand, to our seats.
Later I was talking to a friend about the challenges of small children in church and I told her about the Great Seat Debacle. We laughed about it but then she asked me how I managed to keep my cool.
“I don’t always keep cool,” I told her. “Most of the time I lose my kittens, but this time, as I sat in that rocker watching my 5 year old throw a fit, I suddenly realized this is probably how I look to Jesus when things don’t go the way I think they should.”
As adults, we are masters at masking our emotions to each other and I am no exception. But in our hearts we are just like that 5 year old, stomping our feet, demanding, manipulating, hollering out the injustices of our life. About what is owed to us. Reminding Him who knows all, of the times we have prayed, fasted, and sacrificed. How “good” a Christian we are and how undeserving we are of whatever trial we currently find ourselves in. Conveniently forgetful of the grace given that no amount of good works could ever pay for.
And without condemnation, without wavering, all knowing, all loving. Patiently. Jesus sits and waits for us to wind down. To look up instead of inward. And with His nail-scarred hands, He reaches down and wraps His arms around us.
If we let Him.
He speaks peace to our hearts and reminds us that when we said “yes” to Him, we said “no” to our own selfish desires. Oh, but it’s hard sometimes to sit in the place He’s asked us to when the one in front looks so much more inviting, so much more important. Yet the place that He has prepared for us is always the better portion.
That impassioned little 5 year old is now 7. Although she is much more composed and wouldn’t be caught dead throwing a temper tantrum in public, I’m still learning from her. As a matter of fact, I’ve learned more lessons about Jesus' Grace, about His Mercy, about His love through my children than all the sermons I’ve ever heard preached.
Now if I can just remember to apply them.