It was only a 3 minute conversation. Short and sweet and, I hoped, age appropriate. We had referenced the topic before but this was the first time I could tell she was starting to understand.
Grace. God’s crazy, perfect, necessary grace.
Jane, my “full of personality” four-year-old, had just simmered down from a moment of less than appropriate behavior and the resulting consequences of her poor choice. Being the animated child she is, the conversation to follow went something like this:
Jane: “Oh Mother, do you even love me when I choose to do the bad things?” Let me pause for a moment to assure you this is a true conversation. When feeling like the situation needs an extra sparkle of drama, my four year old refers to me as “mother.” Yup.
Me: “Yes, Jane. I love you even when you make bad choices. It is because I love you that I give you consequences for those choices. I want you to choose the better choice next time.”
Jane: “Mother, does God still love us when we make the bad choices?”
Me: “He does. That is what we call ‘grace.’ God loves us even when we make bad choices. He doesn’t want us to make bad choices which is why He gives consequences too. He wants us to choose well and be like Jesus. It is what is best for us.”
Jane: “So even when I do bad things, you still love me and God still loves me?”
Jane: “What about robbers? Does God still love robbers even after they do bad things?”
Me: “He does. He doesn’t want them to rob people and it makes Him sad when they make that choice but He still loves them.”
Jane: “So I can make a bad choice and you will still love me and God will still love me?”
Me: “Uh huh…but there will still be consequences for the bad choices…”
Jane: “Ok, mom.”
Sweet conversation, right? From her seat, sure. From the person responsible for dishing out the grace, geez.
God’s grace is beautiful and necessary and hard to explain and, as a mother of young kids who CONSTANTLY need parenting, it is frustrating the heck out of me. I suck at giving my kids grace. If I’m honest, I’d prefer not to extend it. I want to be right and angry and justified in my pouting of how hard this job is. But, dang it, I have been soaked in the grace of my Heavenly Father who forgives me and forgets my sin every. single. time. And not just me, but people who I often think I am better than. Like robbers. He extends the same grace to all of us.
It is a risky conversation to have with someone, especially someone you are currently responsible for. I could see the wheels spinning as Jane asked over and over if she could make a bad choice and still be loved just the same. This could go south fast, right? She could decide that she can keep on sinning because of this “get out of jail free” thing called “grace.” She could play the “well, I’m mostly good” game and rank her sin against those around her or keep score, making sure her good deeds out number her bad.
But the truth that God’s love for us is not determined by our behavior is not the end of the story.
Paul says it like this in Romans 6:1-7:
Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.
We are FREE from the power of sin! We can choose not to sin! If you are in Christ, you are a new creation and can say “no” to the old life. What good, good news.
How does He do it? How does He parent me with such amazing grace? I’m a grown up and have known God a long time and have His Spirit living in me and I still make wrong choices. And yet, every time, as I come and seek forgiveness and restoration, my Father throws my sin as far as the East is from the West and forgives. As if that truth isn’t overwhelming enough- in some mystical, spiritual, way-higher-then-my-brain-can-comprehend way, it has already happened. Forgiveness and restoration happened when Jesus bled for me on the cross. All my sin, past, present and future, was atoned for. Paid for in full. Thousands of years before I was born.
Grace upon grace upon grace upon grace. Beautiful.
My prayer for Jane as she processes truth and God reveals Himself to her heart more and more is that she would be in awe of His grace. That as His holiness and goodness and kindness becomes more and more clear to her that she would choose not to take advantage of grace, but that she would become obsessed with wrapping herself in Him as she walks our her salvation day by day.
Dress up in His grace, Jane. It is the most beautiful thing you could ever wear.