Drowning in Grace
There’s no wrath quite like the wrath of a two-year-old child who wants nothing to do with you.
I thought I was being surreptitious, following my nephew, Crockett, as he toddled around the municipal kiddie pool. I kept my distance, lest he actually notice me. My entire goal was to keep him from drowning—to keep him safe and unharmed. But I was not nearly as sneaky in my watchfulness as I had hoped. He spotted me on his second turn around the toddler slide while splashing through the ankle-deep water.
“No!” He yelled at me, in front of everyone. “You’re a bad person!” And then he ran away from me.
This is always an awkward situation for onlookers who have to judge whether or not the adult with crazy red hair and quite a bit of ink on her body is actually familiar with the blond-haired toddler yelling at her to go away.
Then again, this was Austin.
I spent several nights with my brother-in-law’s family while I attended a conference this summer. Poor Crockett was terrorized by my visit - this strange woman who showed up from out of state suddenly, claiming to be his aunt, lavishing cuddles and kisses on him only to then disappear from morning until night.
He was my wake-up call each morning at 6:15. My brother-in-law, bless his soul, is a good man, and a good husband, and a good father, and he was up with Crockett each morning I was there. I have loved my brother-in-law since he was younger than my youngest child, and I have enjoyed watching him turn into a man I’m proud to know. He had also made coffee by the time I emerged from my room minutes later each morning, which makes me love him all the more. Leaning over the back of the couch, I would plant kisses on the top of Crockett’s glorious head.
Crockett would turn his face upward to see who was there, the breaking smile vanishing upon the realization that I was not, in fact, his mother. “No!” he would yell. “You’re a bad person!” It was a refrain I got used to hearing in my few short days. I simply continued toward the kitchen to pour myself a cup of coffee.
To be fair, I can’t say I had much to say in the way of argument, so I didn’t say much. Children are fickle creatures. They are also wise beyond our understanding. And the truth is that, minutes later, Crockett, having no recollection of his outburst, would throw himself onto me in these hugs that satisfied the very depths of my soul. There may be no wrath quite like the wrath of a two year old, but there’s no hug quite like the hug of a two year old, either. And Crockett’s hugs are full-bodied and solid.
By the time my conference ended, family descended upon Austin to celebrate Crockett’s second birthday. My mother-in-law, who has loved me like her own child for over half my life, upon hearing Crockett tell me I was a bad person for the umpteenth time, would try to reason with him. “No, Crockett. Kristen’s a good person. We love Kristen.”
I would watch this exchange unfold, silently, over and over.
And then I hit my breaking point. The next time Crockett said to me, “No! You’re a bad person!” I just kissed his head and said, “And that’s why we need grace, Crockett.”
I’d pass by him in the kitchen.
“You’re a bad person!” he would call out.
“And that’s why we need grace, Crockett,” I would reply.
He would give me a doubtful look only a two year old can give.
We’d eat at the table.
“You’re a bad person!” he’d cry.
“And that’s why we need grace, Crockett,” I would say, after swallowing a bite of Austin BBQ.
And he’d break out in a grin.
That is why we need grace.
I don’t believe it’s human nature to be bad. I believe human nature to be Good, for the simple fact that Christ took on our nature, and if our nature were not Good, he could not have taken it on. We are, by nature, Good, because God made us, and everything God made was Good. We are the very image of God, therefore we are Good. It’s possible I’m wrong about this. After all, I’ve been called a heretic for lesser things.
But we are fallen, finite beings, born into a fallen, finite world. It’s a paradox, for sure, as are many aspects of this created earth.
When I look at myself and my sin and my failings and my weaknesses, I know I am in desperate need of salvation. When I tally up the ways I have wronged others, wronged myself, and wronged God, I want to despair. I am a bad person, and there’s nothing quite so stark as having a two year old remind me of this fact.
And the honest truth is that there’s nothing quite so satisfying as knowing that not only do we need grace, but we have it in immeasurable quantity, extended to us, right there, following us around the kiddie pool to keep us from drowning.