Monday, July 14, 2008

Mercy and grace

This weekend Neal-13 camped with friends. He was in a hurry to get out the door (aren't we always?), what with trying to locate fishing poles in our chaotic garage. When he left, I took a break from my work in the sunroom to check on his room.

Oh. My. Gracious.

I felt the blood pressure rising as I looked around - unmade bed (sheets coming off), clothes on the floor (knee deep in the closet), boxes still unpacked ("I'll get to it, Mom!" he'd promised me, over and over again.).

But oooohhh how the smoke began to pour out my ears when I saw this on his nightstand:

This, my friends, is evidence of a late night snack (his camping buddy had spent the night at our house the night before). Most boys might go for cheetos and cookies at midnight, but not Neal. He was in there, heating up the kitchen, making omelettes. That's my boy.

ANYWAY, I immediately picked up the phone and, after the "how's it going," chit-chat, I calmly expressed my deep disappointment at his slovenliness. I very seriously said that when he got back from camping, he would not be going anywhere for a while. There was a long silence. "Yes, Ma'am," he finally said, partly out of fear, and partly because his buddy was sitting right next to him and he did not want to engage me further. Smart man.

I was busy working and walked past the room several times. I said to myself, I am NOT touching this. This is disgusting. Besides, it's his responsibility, and he should clean it up.

But the more I looked at that room, the more I realized that the paralysis that struck me on an overwhelming level - with the entire house in confused shambles after the move - has also struck him. I think his room kept getting worse and worse - the food plate notwithstanding (you'd think he'd at least see that!) - because he just didn't know where to begin.

I'll just help him unload the rest of his boxes. There aren't that many.

There were eight. Eight boxes full of pencil nubs, firecrackers, award ribbons, notes from classmates, pocketknives, computer games, and, well, trash. I guess at the point that you have no idea what's in a box, what's a little trash going to hurt? What a mess. No wonder why he didn't know where to start.

I worked on his room all afternoon Saturday. Cleaning, sorting. Mostly throwing away.

As I worked, I kept thinking about mercy and grace. I don't know why the grace part was easier for me - I was giving him something he didn't deserve - a clean room in exchange for weeks of (what looked to me like) sloth.

But the mercy part...

At first, while I was still fuming about the mess, I kept thinking of what I wanted him to do in exchange for all the work I had done in his behalf. I wanted him to know how hard I worked. He should have to work hard, too! How about a little pain in there?

Maybe I could have him clean the windows. Wash the dog. Polish toilets.
With a toothbrush. Remove a few privileges.

In the end, I chose mercy. I'm not sure why, except that (when I saw how big the job was) I knew he needed my help more than he needed a "lesson."

I guess I've been in that spot a time or two.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8


Anonymous said...

I would have done just what you did. I'm sure he'll appreciate that you helped him and will gladly repay the favor when he gets home.

Lori - Queen of Dirty Laundry said...

Oh Amen, sister! There needs to be an altar call at the end of this post.

I had a similar (although much smaller) issue/lesson with one of my girls just yesterday. What a pleasure to read this post that reinforced and expanded on what I've been working on!

Anonymous said...

Except what do you do when your son goes to scout camp and you decide o clean his room for him, cleaning moldy apples and candy wrappers and plates buried under books, a week long project (I have 5 kids too) and he comes back and explodes in anger, and then dad goes out to the garbage and gives him back all the garbage (OK, not the moldy apples). What then?

Anonymous said...

hi katherine,
I love this!! I know he will appreciate you! Your post has ministered so much to me because... I first thought "is she just enabling him?" "will he just expect her to clean up the mess everytime?" THEN I kept reading about mercy. It struck hard. We all need a "lesson" now and again....but he'll learn a more important lesson from your help. Thanks for sharing!


Jen said...

Yes....I would have done the same thing and have done husband told me a long time ago...pick and choose your battles with Madison....and that is exactly what I do.

Julie said...

I can feel the frustration! I am not sure I would have been so sympathetic - especially with him going away to camp.

I totally agree with removing privileges - my children know it well!

You did show mercy and compassion to your son. You showed the compassion of Christ!

Andrea said...

That is *so* me. Sometimes (to be honest( I don't know if I am doing it to show mercy and grace, but also for some GUILT. *hee*. But seriously, I think to even begin to start something like that, you need a heart of mercy and grace. The guilt reaction is the bonus. ;)
Oh, and....
your boy makes "omelettes" and says "Yes, Ma'am"? You've got a sweet boy. :) Well done, K.

Brenda on the S OR Coast said...

Absolutely beautiful.

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Queen to my 3 Boys said...

I don't know why, but that made me cry. You are a good mom.

Who doesn't need a little mercy & grace?

Anonymous said...

I can't believe it took you so long to realize your hipocrasy. You needed your mother to come down and give you a shot in the arm so that you could finish unpacking, yet you expected your son to do what you could not?

Katherine@Raising Five said...

Anonymous, I can't believe it either! Sheesh! I've learned more about grace and mercy from my kids than from just about anyone else this side of heaven, except maybe my husband. How easy it is to receive it, but how much better to pass it on.


~Amy~ said...

to have the mercy and grace that the Lord gives us daily to over flow to things we do for our children is wonderful. Not sure which way I would have gone with this if it were me. But I can say I would have wanted to do exactly what you did. Sometime the enemy gets the best of me though

Les & Sweetie Berry said...

And as I, myself, look at a mess I created out of my own failing to follow through the simple things...well Grace is needed at all levels of my own slovenlyness...and we all get overwhelmed with life changes, move changes, and simply not doing the simple things long enough until it produces overwhelmedness....Somedays we all just need a little less judgement and alot more help and love while we figure life out....
hugs hugs hugs

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

What great thoughts -- and you're a great example. I struggle with knowing when to make the kids "toe the line" and when to extend that mercy & grace. Both are needed; the trick is knowing when to implement each. Mostly, I pray...for wisdom, and that God would fill in the gaps I'm surely leaving in my parenting!

Marian said...

Thanks for the example.

Sometimes I let the voice on my shoulder-- those authors, friends, "others" I foolishly struggle to please-- bully me into "teaching the lesson" as love, when, if I'd asked God, he might have had other plans for that particular situation.

Joyfulness said...

Ah, you have me thinking as always.

Jen - Balancing Beauty and Bedlam said...

First time visitor, and have loved the read. What a precious response you gave to 'anonymous.' I guess there are lots of us moms with five who have been there...we are all just living, learning and loving as the Lord goes before us.

Rachel Anne said...


Love this post (sniff). What wisdom and humility it takes to handle not just the parenting but the criticism. You are sweetness and grace.

Jamie said...

Love this post! Mercy and Grace...we are all in need of it! I pray that I can show that to my kids too.