Grace, Mercy, & Sprinkles

Writing might be the last thing I should be doing right now (or maybe the first?).  My to-do list is growing by the minute.  And if I am writing, it should probably be an update on ministry stuff.  But it’s not.

Nope, I’m writing because God laid a word on my heart tonight and it keeps rolling around in my head.  It needs to come out.  So here it goes…

Grace and mercy.  Two small, simple words that are anything but easy.

Grace (n): free and unmerited favor

Mercy (n): compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm

Life with a toddler and a baby is…well…interesting.  After a relatively quiet afternoon full of time lost scheduling doctors appointments, I realized I was about 10 minutes late waking up our toddler.  Too much sleep after school and she struggles to go to bed.  So I wake her up, as usual, by picking her up with her stuffed animal and transferring her to the couch where I cover her with one of her favorite blankets and allow her to wake up slowly.  It usually works like a charm.  But not today.

Crying.  Just crying.  She’s hungry, her sock fell off, the blanket is folded funny…the list went on.  And no matter what, still crying.  I held her.  Still crying.  I was firm.  Still crying.

Baby wakes up.  Crying.  Not entirely unusual for him to wake this way, but his two top teeth are coming through and he immediately wanted his momma. So the crying was definitely worse than usual.

And in the middle of the chaos, Justin comes home.  Two kids crying.  Neither consolable.

As we prepared dinner, it didn’t get much better.  While trying to catch up on the day, we kept passing one child back and forth to keep him from crying and were constantly interrupted by the other with random bursts of tears.

Dinner came.  Hangry toddler was satisfied and much better.  No more crying.

But tears turned into misbehaviors.  Was it the crazy day at school (pajama party!!)?  Was it the exhaustion of mom & dad?  Was it that brother was getting more attention?  Or was it just typical toddler stuff?

It doesn’t matter.  Over and over again the wrong choice was made.  And then she asked for ice cream.

Snacks before bed time are not a normal thing (unless she’s at Mimi & Papa’s).  It is only on rare occasions that ice cream comes out before bed.

So, like any good parent…we bargained (ha!): “If you stop making bad choices, you can have ice cream.” She had 10 minutes.  Not completely unreasonable for a 4 year old.

She failed, miserably.  Just moments after being disciplined for shutting a door in her brother’s face, she asked for ice cream again.

“Have you been making good choices tonight?”

She carefully folded up her fingers, one at a time, “This many” as she tentatively held out 3.

“Have you made any bad choices tonight?”  She didn’t hesitate to unfold one more finger (ha!).

“When you make more bad choices than good choices what does that mean?”

“Good things can’t happen.”  (We’ve been talking a lot about actions and consequences lately.)

“That’s right,” Daddy said as he pulled her up into his lap.  He gently talked to her about what the consequences could have been for some of her choices, “But tonight, you can still have ice cream.  Not because you deserve it.  I’m showing you mercy.”

“And grace!,” I chimed in.

“Like Jesus…” she said as she toddled off to the kitchen with her Daddy (definite win).

A bit later she proudly carried a cup of ice cream out to me before she carried out her own.

As we sat together, Daddy walked out of the kitchen, sprinkles in hand, and added them to her ice cream (something unheard of in this house).  She was ecstatic!

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I laughed and said, “Wow – grace and sprinkles!”

And those words wouldn’t quit bouncing around in my head.

Isn’t God just like that?  He gives us grace, mercy, and sprinkles!  If I had to count on my fingers the good choices I’ve made versus the bad ones…well, I would run out of fingers pretty quickly either way – but I don’t think the scales would tip in my favor.  I don’t deserve anything.  Not ice cream.  And certainly not bonus sprinkles!

But God, in His beautiful glory, wants to give me the world.  He wants to give me what I don’t deserve…and so much more.  Why?  Because He loves me!  Love changes everything.  God has given me unmerited favor.  And He is constantly walking out from the kitchen, sprinkles in hand, to shower extra undeserved blessings upon me.

Simply because He loves me.

So why, then, do I struggle so much with grace and mercy?  Why, when He has given me so much that I don’t deserve, do I struggle to do the same for others?

Grace and mercy are hard for us silly humans because we don’t love first.  When opportunities to show grace arise, we usually do one of two things:

  1. We just don’t offer it.  We walk away.  They dug their ditch, they can lay in it.  Or…
  2. We begrudgingly offer grace, simply because we’re supposed to.

But when grace isn’t rooted in love, it will often lead to resentment, which isn’t really grace or mercy after all…

Like a good father, we have to start with love.  We have to choose to see someone the way that God sees them.  In the words of Urban Rescue, “Your love is my kaleidoscope.”  His love changes everything.  It changes the way we see things.  It changes me.  It changes you.  It changes them.

Love first. Grace and mercy are much easier after that.  Who knows?  Maybe you’ll start dishing out sprinkles too!

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