What I Learned from a Really Ugly Moment Last Week

You know how sometimes you look back and think, WHY in the world did I say that!? I had a moment like that last week. It was ugly… but I learned a lot! Here’s what happened:

In a state of discouragement and stress, I had written some critical, even sarcastic comments about a friend — and then I realized I had accidentally emailed those comments to my friend.

Oh no!

I felt like I had been gut-punched when I realized what had happened. I apologized immediately — and my friend was extremely gracious — but I still felt so horrible about the hurt I had caused to a person I care about, a sibling in Christ.

I realized I was not living by my own teaching about the kind of messages we are called to communicate to others. It was clear God was speaking to me about the sin which can so easily entangle us (Heb. 12:1)… and I’m not going to lie, it was hard to hear:

  • The day my friend opened the email and asked me about it, the parenting tip that had gone out that morning was me videotaped talking about repentance and reconciliation!
  • I then opened the project I was editing and the only scripture on the page was, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)

I felt pretty discouraged and curled up on the couch in tears. But as I lay there feeling convicted, all at once I was overwhelmed by a sense of God’s deep compassion for me. (Psa. 103:13-14)

I realized in a fresh way something that had helped me years before when my parenting failures loomed large in my face: God knew about this mess-up long ago from eternity past. It was part of the package when Christ paid for my sins. In this recent instance, God communicated his gentle compassion for my long process of recovering from being an extremely sarcastic person in my youth. Years ago, when I was in the throes of a persistent struggle with negative, critical parenting, God was gracious as well, peeling off one layer at a time at a pace I could handle, knowing this process would set me free to greater joy.

So how might this insight apply to parenting?

  • Do we receive God’s gentle compassion when we mess up in our parenting? If you’ve had a recent angry outburst at your kids – it was no surprise to your Creator. God isn’t glaring at you with a “Seriously, you did that to your kids?” type of attitude. God sees your true heart of love for your children, all the stress that parenting them holds, and all your mistakes along the way and embraces you as a beloved child.
  • Do we offer that same gentle compassion to our kids when they mess up? We can view each misbehavior as another step in the long process of guiding our children toward God’s purposes for them.

When grace prevails for our own parenting mistakes, it has a wonderful trickle-down effect on our children as well. Nothing you did last week, this week, or next year will surprise or overwhelm the God who has paid for it all. He’s in charge of your process, so lean into his compassionate plans to set you free, one layer at a time. Then you will be set free to greater joy — and be able to compassionately come alongside your child as God works on their layers.

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