Clutching Grace

We ought to approach Lent as an opportunity, not a requirement. 
-Editors, from the devotional Bread and Wine

On Day 2 of Lent I received a frantic call from a neighbor whose oldest child is suffering from bouts of severe depression. She has seven kids, a husband out of town and she needed help with two of her younger children so that she could get her son to a residential clinic in another state.

Right away I knew I had been blessed with this opportunity to help someone in a very tangible way. After dropping my kids off at school, I showed up at her house, held her baby while she got her kids ready, and just listened. She warned me that her three year old daughter was her "devil child" and thanked me for my willingness to help her out as none of her friends had answered her call or returned her messages. I assured her it was no problem at all, I mean, what's another couple of kids for a day?

Let's just say that her assessment of her daughter is pretty much on target. I have never seen a child quite like her: she can't stay still for two seconds, is all over the place, and her life's purpose is apparently to break any rule you set in front of her, with a sweet, innocent smile on her face. She is a precious little devil, to say the least.

At one point, she was sitting (and by sitting I mean she was half standing) on the bench at the kitchen table and started leaving with a fistful of pretzels clutched in one hand and a mouth so full I thought she might start spitting crumbs out at any moment.

"B, where are you supposed to eat in my house?" I asked her.

She mumbled something that sounded close to "at the table" and then smiled a huge grin complete with partially chewed up pretzels oozing between her teeth.

I helped her sit back down and as soon as she was done swallowing, she stuffed another fistful in and proceeded to get up again.

"B, please sit back down. You cannot leave the table until you are done chewing AND swallowing your food."

She gave me that devilish grin again. Clearly we were playing a fun game.

After several more rounds of this, she grabbed one more pretzel and started to "slip away" as she watched to see if I was paying attention. She was tickled pink when I held out my hand and asked her to give up the pretzel before she headed off to destroy the rest of the house. And so went the next nine hours.

Two days later, it would be me who needed the help. A flat tire lead to a little panic as I could not make it to the training facility I was supposed to coach at, there were kids and parents waiting to get in and it was single digits cold outside and our trainer had decided not to go that morning but hadn't told me. Furthermore, Kurt had taken his truck to pick up Aidan from swimming and go north to his parent's lake house with the boys (where we would meet up after soccer) and so now I was to get the tire fixed, reload the truck (dog and all) and somehow manage to get to the four hours of scrimmages with the girls after feeding and watering the chickens, where I found our Houdini bunnies roaming the shed, whose door was wide open and the chickens inside were shivering from the deep freeze of the night before!

I took a lot of deep breaths, reminding myself that I hadn't had to check in my child to a hospital for suicidal thoughts, that everyone was well, the chickens were still producing, the bunnies had not left the barn and soon I would be tucked away in the still of a private retreat.

AAA took almost two hours to arrive, only to tell me that my best bet was to blow up the tire and get to the closest tire center to have it fixed, rather than put a spare on and go on a road trip. After he added air and checked the rest of the tires, I thanked him for his time (even though I was pretty annoyed as I could have done that like three hours earlier and been off already). And then I immediately phoned a friend for help in getting the girls to where they belonged so that I could take care of the rest. I will admit, God has gifted me with very good friends in my life. I am utterly grateful.

While waiting in the lobby for the tire to be patched, I had the rare moment of no kids and nothing to do. That is when I received a phone call from a parent in Liam's class. You see, Liam has been invited to his first ever sleep over birthday party. Actually, this is only the second birthday party he has ever been invited to, which is sad when I stop to think about it. But then, I had requested to speak with this mom to make sure she knew how overstimulated Liam can sometimes get and that he might incessantly talk her ear off, if given the opportunity, and could very possibly rile the entire group up, although, I don't know for sure as he had never been given this kind of opportunity. At one point, I told her she was brave for inviting all the boys in the class for a sleepover party but as it turns out, she only allowed her twins to invite 6 boys.

And Liam made the cut! 

My heart was so full as it sunk in that Liam had been chosen, had been picked out by actual kids his age (whom apparently talk about Liam all the time to their mom because, as she put it, they simply love Liam) and that he would have the opportunity to participate in what is essentially a childhood rite of passage.

And then, perhaps due to the ridiculousness of the morning, tears started edging their way to the corners of my eyes, right there in the tire center. And it occurred to me that with God, we are all chosen, all called upon to participate, all invited to sit at the table and partake of God's everlasting love and grace.

And then, something dawned on me. I am just like my neighbor's daughter: trying to stuff myself as fully as possible while quietly plotting my escape from the table, all the while, clutching grace tightly, as if my life depended on it.

And it does.

As Paul wrote in Romans: 'For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'

Fortunately, God has His eyes on us, knows when we get up to leave and like any good parent, calls us back to stay at the table.

Fortunately, that grace we clutch onto, clutches onto us, too.


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