Many moons ago, Josh and I were painting our garage. I didn’t want to be painting the garage. It was hot, and the garage was big and this was back before we had kiddos and I took for granted what a luxury it was to complete a Saturday afternoon project without having to stop 37 times because someone pooped or fell off their bike or needed a snack. (I love my kids. I really do.)
But, anyway, I was looking for a reason to take a break. Any ol’ distraction would do. And lo and behold, a fly landed on the ground beside me. This would do.
So I painted that fly. Just blobbed a dollop of white on his back without thought or hesitation.
No sooner was the deed done, however, when I was overwhelmed with shame.
Sure, it was just fly. I’d have murdered him and his wife and children with pleasure if they’d dared buzz into my house without asking. But this guy was minding his own business, in his own territory. He just happened to land in the wrong spot, next to a girl who was bigger and bored and had a paintbrush at her disposal.
Now that poor fly’s wings were heavy with thick oil paint that would, eventually, dry and lock them permanently into place. The fly would die.
It sounds silly, but never in my entire life prior to that moment had I had such an awareness of my own depravity, my own sin. I was capable of murder. The slow, torturous kind. Out of boredom.
Yeah, it just a fly.
I talked about mercy last week. I’m still learning.
We’ve had a difficult time lately with Christian. I’m certain the introduction of a new little brother and mommy-stealer into our house hasn’t helped, but these last few weeks he has been…challenging.
I’m on edge as it is. Sure, anyone who dares comes at my newborn with their mouth wide open and teeth bared (or tongue out) would get me excited, but add the strength and decision-making skills of a diapered bowling ball to that equation and you have a momma with very frayed nerves and a two-year-old who spends most of his time in trouble.
So, yeah, mercy has been a little hard to come by around here.
I want to have perfect children. That’s not gonna happen.
So I want to have good children, at least. The kind that teachers brag on and the ones who rescue other kids from bullies and start worldwide revolutions in kindness like the Pay It Forward kid, except without the Pay It Forward kid’s ending. But that’s probably not going to happen either.
Because I’m 32 years old and I’ve been a professing follower of Christ since I was seven, and I’m just now starting to understand that when Jesus says, “No one is good—except God alone,” he means it. (Luke 18:19)
I’m not good.
Nor are my children.
And we never will be.
No matter how hard we try or how much we discipline or how perfectly we teach them to behave, we can’t make our kids good. We can’t even make ourselves good. That’s what the Bible says anyway. It says, “There is no one righteous, not even one…” (Romans 3:10)
This is not a popular notion in a culture that wants us to teach children that they are all wonderful, all destined for greatness, all winners. We’ve done a little switcheroo on the Truth and the alphabet there. We are sinners, kiddos, not winners.
That’s why God made fit-throwing, teeth-baring two-year-olds, after all. They illustrate that point very nicely indeed.
So mercy is worth coming back to this week.
At the very least, we are all like toddlers, ready to bite whoever gets in our way.
At most, we are all murderers, with our paintbrushes or our tongues or our jealous thoughts. We are all deserving of death.
But God is merciful, and we are not dead. He has given us another chance.
He has given us Jesus.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
So we can’t be good, but, because of Jesus, we can be the righteousness of God.
That doesn’t make any sense,
But that, friends, is mercy.
So while we have been working more intentionally to train Christian’s behavior these last few days (I apologize if he bites or licks you in the meantime), it has brought me great comfort to know that I’ll never be able to teach him to be good. Because, I’ve realized, I don’t want him to be good.
I want him to be walking in grace.
The sooner he knows that he’s a sinner in need of a savior the better.
It will be God’s goodness and mercy and grace alone that will save him. Nothing else.
So, Moms, I think that means you and I can relax just a tad.
Because God is merciful, and good is not the goal.