Shoulders slumped over, wild brown hair hung over her glasses, like a barrier trying to conceal the tears welling up in her eyes.
“I’m so sorry, mom.”
The words came out soft and cracked. My heart was overwhelmed with a sense of sadness for her. I hate being exposed, I knew all too well how she was feeling. She pressed her hands into the counter and gave her slender frame a little push down, her feet lightly touching the kitchen tile. I watched her walk carefully towards my bedroom where she would have a similar conversation with her father.
I finish packing her lunch, sliding it into her backpack, and grabbed my car keys. I turned the radio volume low as we pulled down the street towards her school; I looked over to see her eyes fixated on her knees.
“Are you mad at us?” I asked, gently. There was silence so I continued,
“I hope you don’t view this as a punishment, that’s not what we are intending, just offering a little more guidance to help you navigate things in a way that is better for you.”
“I’m not mad at you guys, I’m disappointed in myself. I knew better.” Her voice cracked all the way, tears began to stream behind her glasses. She wiped them away, with the cuff of her black hoodie.
My mind started to race, searching to find a word of comfort for my daughter’s burdened heart. I believe very much in God’s two words, Law and Gospel. It is in moments such as these, where knowing the difference between the two, is paramount. If I were to hand my daughter a word of Law, she would be utterly crushed, left without hope in her shame. She would continue inside the darkness of her failure, which would no doubt fill her with resentment towards us. Despair would overtake her, sending her into hiding and it would keep her there. It was crystal clear to me that the word of the Law was not needed in this situation. She had already been exposed by the truth and was broken. What she needed in this moment was some good news, a good word. She needed the gospel to lift her out of herself, she needed to be freed from this burden.
I explained to her the ways in which children fail isn’t much different from the way adults fail. We know what we should do, but we find ourselves going against it. I admitted to her that I take advantage of my freedom all of the time, sometimes it seems impulsive, other times more willful. When we see a line that we know we should not cross, we sinners just can’t help ourselves sometimes.
“It’s like seeing a sign that says, don’t touch. OH, I’M TOUCHING IT! That’s the law. That’s what it evokes in us.”
A smile began to form at one corner of her mouth, so I continued to press into the gospel. She tends to tease me about being a preacher, so I wait for my cues and then aim to keep it short and sweet. I reminded her of how Christ never failed, that his work on the cross speaks to us in our failure. I told her that as many times as I fail, God doesn’t shame me or hold me at arm’s length in that failure. He exposes me because he loves me, he doesn’t want this thing to keep me from coming to him. My union with Christ means there is now no law that I can break that will stop God from embracing me. Because I have been loved this way in my failures, the last thing I wanted to do was shame her because of her own. I wanted to love her with the love that I have been given. As the words left my lips, she broke into a full blown smile. My voice cracked and tears began to trickle down my own cheeks.
I pulled the car up to the school and came to a full stop. She gathered her things and hopped out of the car. She looked back at me and smiled,
“Thank you, mom. This huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders that I’ve been carrying around for a while. I feel light again.”