One of three I scarred for life. Ain’t she adorable?

If you’re a parent of anyone over three days old, you may as well know, you’ve scarred your kid.  If you’re not a parent, you probably had a goldfish, and let’s be real, you screwed him up pretty bad too.  So you can wipe that judge-y look off your face and keep reading.

The fact is, parenting is a wild ride.  You’ll never get it right.  But tell me I’m not the only one who has occasionally REALLY gotten it wrong. 

I’m kind of a science nerd, a huge philosophy freak, someone who likes learning stuff, and I just assume everyone is like me, especially my kids.  So, any time I had an opportunity to teach them something cool, I would take it.  I mean, this world is amazing and there’s just so much to know, and those toddlers weren’t getting any younger…occasionally my enthusiasm may have superseded my discretion.  For example, it’s possible my 3 year old didn’t need to know that, no, pythons won’t poison you, they will hug you to death.  But it’s just a fact!  I’m not gonna lie to my kid.  For the record, hubby felt that I could have saved that information for later.  I don’t know.  Not every cool thing I taught my kids resulted in trauma.  Frequently I found legitimately cool things to show and teach them.  Ask me about mud wasps some time.

Regardless, I really don’t think I could have foreseen the years of emotional agony my daughter would suffer just because I taught her “something cool” after she cut herself at the age of four or five. I wish I remembered the initial incident better.  I know she got a cut, and I was putting on a bandage and cleaning her up.  For some reason she was concerned because she bled more than most scraped knees.  The thought had somehow entered her head that she needed blood, and it was probably not good that it was leaking out of her.  I, helpful as usual, thought I would demonstrate how much blood the average person has in their body.  I found something that held four litres.  I’m pretty sure it was a bag of milk, but it might have been a couple pop bottles.  Anyways, I pointed out that she had probably lost a teaspoon or two worth of blood, and she really didn’t need to worry because she had so much blood in her body. She wasn’t going to run out because of a little cut.

Harmless right? Helpful? Comforting? Yes! Great job mom!  Your little girl will sleep well tonight knowing she won’t bleed to death.  End of story…you would think.  But if you were my daughter’s mother, you’d be wrong. 

now know that my precious little girl spent the next several years of her childhood watching her life ebb away every time she fell in the driveway or got a paper cut.  I don’t know when it was finally revealed to her that her body was constantly replenishing her blood supply, but it was many years.  And in the interim my daughter lived in mortal fear of watching the last drop leave her body.  I don’t know why I didn’t tell her that blood was renewable to begin with.  In retrospect it seemed quite obvious to me, but apparently a deeply thoughtful four-year-old girl doesn’t intuitively understand this.  So yes, she spent I don’t know how many agonizing months and years wondering which was the last drop and how close to the end she was drawing.  She didn’t tell me how I had scarred her until she was in her late teens, and it came up in some random discussion in the middle of the night by which time she found the whole thing funny, but still somewhat unforgiveable. 

We laugh about it now.  It comes up during those occasional dinner conversations when the kids reminisce with great delight about the many ways we traumatised them when they were little.  They love to mock me and, now that it’s in the past, it’s pretty amusing.  But can you imagine worrying about running out of something so completely necessary as blood?  That’s more than a little terrifying. 

But I think it’s something that I see reflected in my own life.  No, I don’t worry about bleeding out a drop at a time over the course of years, but I do keep wondering exactly how much grace God has for me.  I find myself thinking and acting like it’s eventually going to run out.  For real y’all.  I just keep getting the same things wrong over and over.  Yes, I’m learning.  Yes, I’m growing.  Yes, God keeps working in me.  But wow!  I’m a slow learner.  I make the same mistakes, the same wrong choices, I react in the same stupid way over and over.  How long is he going to keep putting up with me?  You know?  I’ve had a lot of people just walk away and give up on me in one capacity or another.  When will he finally say, “Nope, you used your last drop of grace yesterday”?

For a long time, I think I understood grace as a one-time gift we got at the cross.  God looks down at us in the moment that we surrender our lives to him, and he says, “OK, I forgive you.  You’re a new creation.  Go and sin no more.”  And maybe it’s just me, I think even though I have known since childhood that I am “saved by grace through faith” as Ephesians famously teaches, that from the point I gave my life to Jesus, we haul out the scales again.  Like, maybe he gives me four litres of grace just to get me started, but I am a new creation so it’s time I start earning God’s grace.  There are a couple of problems with thinking this way.  One of them is that it’s completely untrue. When Paul blesses the church in his letters saying, May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, there’s no mention of it running out.  2 Peter opens with a blessing of grace and peace in abundance.  Hebrews 4 encourages us to approach God’s throne with confidence because we will find all the mercy and grace we need there.  The idea that grace only happened at the cross is just not even biblical.  If we live like grace is a limited resource, it messes up even more than our understanding of and relationship with God.  We don’t offer grace to those around us who are broken, slow-learners just like we are.  We get offended when people keep treating us in the same broken ways.  We write people off.  We can even be stingy with grace towards ourselves.  We get frustrated and discouraged because we just made the same mistake again.  We can even write ourselves off as hopeless, or at least we can convince ourselves that we will never grow past that one thing we keep getting wrong.

And I think that’s another thing about grace.  It’s not just about forgiveness.  God’s grace is so much bigger than just saying, “I can see you’re sorry.  I forgive you.”  He does that, with all his heart.  He loves to forgive us.  But God doesn’t want us to keep being broken.  He wants to heal us.  His grace gives us the strength and opportunity to keep going, to break a habit that is crushing us, to defeat a pattern of sin in our lives, to overcome a barrier that comes between us and him or between us and someone we need to be loving.  

If you are feeling failure in some area of your life, hear me now.  God’s grace does not run out.  It pours out.  He loves his children, and there has never been a moment when he didn’t have enough grace for you.  His grace cost him very dearly, as Good Friday recently reminded us, and he has no interest in letting it go to waste.  

You never need to worry that you have finally used up that last drop of God’s grace.  Every time you scrape your knee, there is an ocean where you can wash.  Until the day comes when we stand in his presence with no fear of ever falling again, God’s grace will never run out.

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