I took my two sons (six and four years old) to an end of season soccer party. The kids got to play on a park, swim in a pool and jump on a trampoline. Many kids were running around having fun, but my oldest son was getting upset. One kid accidentally pushed him on the trampoline. Another kid unknowingly hit his eye with a water noodle. And a girl on a swing ran into him while he was walking through the park.
My son cried to me, “Why do kids keeping hurting me?”
“They are not doing it on purpose,” I told him in my sweetest mommy voice. “There are a lot of kids here, so they’re going to bump into each other.
“But, they are hitting me, and I don’t like it!” He screamed.
“Well, the only thing we can do is make all the kids go home, so you can play by yourself. Does that sound fun to you?” I asked him.
“No,” he answered.
“You have to understand that people accidentally hurt each other, so you have to give them mercy. No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes.”
“Okay, Mommy,” he said and went back into the pool.
Ten minutes later, I found my son standing with his head buried in a lawn chair. He looked like an ostrich hiding his face in the dirt.
“What happened,” I asked him.
He looked at me. His eyes were red and swollen, and his cheeks were wet with tears. “I accidentally pushed a girl!” he whispered.
“How?” I asked
“I was on the trampoline, and I ran into her!” he said, getting louder.
“Did you say sorry?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “but everyone looked at me!”
“It’s okay,” I said pointing to the trampoline. “Look, they are all jumping again. They don’t even remember.”
“But, I ran into her, and they all looked at me!” he yelled.
I knew my son needed additional insight on mercy. “Guess what, Son? You are not perfect either. You also make mistakes, and you will need to receive mercy from others.”
“But I hurt her!” he screamed with fresh tears falling down his face.
I took my son into my arms and gave him a big hug. “I think you also need to give yourself a little mercy too.”
As I held my son, I realized that I also struggle with giving myself mercy. Through the years, I’ve learned to give mercy to others, but I never quite got the knack of receiving it. I’m hard on myself, and I tend to focus on my mistakes. I don’t give myself any slack, and this makes my life tense when I’m in a particularity difficult season.
I know that there is a balance between grace and diligence, and I’m determined to figure it out. I don’t want to limit God when I try to stick myself in a mold of perfection. I will never be perfect and I will hurt and offend people, but I trust that God will make my mistakes into something beautiful. I want to lean on His perfection and allow His grace to fill in the cracks of my imperfection. Hopefully, my son and I can step into the fullness of His mercy together.
“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1.16 NIV).