Pressure had been building like steam in a tea kettle all morning long. Piles of dishes from the night before, missing shoes, children who won’t get out of bed, who won’t eat breakfast, who don’t answer when I call to them. Steam. Building. And then….Where’s Ezra? I open the back door. A once clean, blonde haired, blue eyed boy standing in the middle of his sandbox covered in mud.
That’s all it took. The absolute last straw of the morning. Boom.
“Why?! Why can’t you people just do what I ask you to do? Why do you have to make everything so stinking difficult?!” Wide eyes staring blankly back at me, while I continued on my rant. “Why do you guys refuse to clean up after yourselves? Why do you have to make such messes in the first place? This is just insane. I can’t find anything. Just know when you guys get home, everyone is cleaning this house. I can’t possibly be expected to keep up with all of this by myself. If you guys can’t stop making mornings so difficult, I’ll just start waking you up at 6am.” And then the big kahuna finisher, “You guys just have to get your act together. Seriously. Or I’m just going to go crazy.”
Oh yeah. I went there.
By the time we loaded into the car, we were all crying. Then my son announces that he put the hide-a-key in the sandbox. I run out there to check. I can’t find it. Perfect. I head back to the car. *Car door slams!*
In the midst of feeling completely helpless and completely out of control at this point, I realize that my daughter who is already having a hard time at school, will go to school crushed because her mom flipped a lid this morning. And I feel like a complete jerk. I begin to make amends with my children. Thankfully, by the time we got to her school, I was able to make it right. She hopped out of the car smiling, and I drove away.
I began recounting all the events of the morning and felt so guilty for yelling at my kids. No, they hadn’t picked up after themselves, but there’s also a giant pile of laundry in my bedroom floor that’s been looking at me for two days waiting for me to fold it. And yes, they left a mess in the living room but I didn’t bother to do the dishes from dinner last night. Ugh, hypocrite.
But there’s something else. Something deeper.
I feel guilty because I acted like a jerk and I crushed my kids with my words; I should feel bad about that. My failure to love my kids should break my heart. But the reason that I feel bad about it and am embarrassed about it–if I am being honest–is because I really do believe that I should have my act together. It’s the self-righteous part of my heart that believes: “I got this.” And if I don’t “got this” it’s because they don’t have their act together. And the reason that none of us have our act together today is because our house is messy. And the proof that this is the problem at hand is in the way I apologized to my kids. “I’m sorry, I should not have gotten so angry and yelled at you. We will all clean the house tonight and have a better morning tomorrow.” Oh, me and my fig-leaf-solutions.
The truth is that I don’t have my act together. I never will. I’m always a mess but sometimes I’m more than that. I’m a disaster. I’m the kid in the sandbox with mud slung from the top of my head to the bottoms of my feet. What does the gospel say to a disaster like me? Well, for starters, Jesus is not at all surprised in my outbursts. He knew before I even opened my eyes this morning that I was going to flip a lid. Not only that, He’s praying for me always. “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). That truth slays me. Yes, I failed to love my children when they disobeyed me, but God never fails to love his children when they disobey him. Ever.
When I don’t “got this”, Jesus does. When I’m ranting and acting like a fool, Jesus is advocating for me. “She’s a disaster right now, but she is my disaster. Paid in full.” That thought breaks past the “I didn’t obey the law” and gets to the thing under the thing: the thought that I actually could love my kids perfectly this morning and not just be about my own inconveniences. The love of Christ breaks in down to our self-righteousness. It reaches down to our fig-leaf DIY solutions and lovingly says, “You don’t got this, Sarah, and it’s that constant belief that you do or that you should that makes you need me in the first place. I perfectly loved for you. You’re not going to get it right. Boast in your weakness. Just need me.”
It is bathing in that unconditional, radical love to me–while I’m knee deep in my sin–that makes me skip off happy and free toward my children, ready to love them in the midst of their mess. They, like me, are giant disasters, little broken people who desperately need to be loved, who will never get it right or have their act together, ever; they—like me–need Jesus. And the good news is: we can run to Jesus, with our mud from head to toe, and he will welcome us with loving arms.