Recently, I was hovering over the trash can during a desperate counter-clearing effort, doing a pre-pitch skimming of the newsletter from one such mission, when this story changed my trajectory:
[These two toddlers/preschoolers] are children of a single mother and unknown father. She is a drug addict who works cleaning windshields on the highway. They had lived, or survived, under a bridge fed only on street food, soda, and cookies. Their clothing was ill-fitted, dirty rags. They were victims of indifference.
[When the country’s social services brought the children to the mission], they hadn’t eaten all day. [The boy] was wearing only a t-shirt and a diaper that hadn’t been changed all day. But the smiles on both of their faces, their affection, and their innocence was unforgettable. After eating, bathing, and being dressed in our best, the looks on their faces were indescribable. Yet, they both cried a lot in the days that followed because they missed their mother. Since then, they have adapted well and stolen our hearts.
It wasn’t merely the brokenness of a world in which such stories are all too common, nor the accompanying photos of the children that brought the tragedy to a personal point, that stopped me cold. It was that last bit--did it catch you too? The part that stopped me in my tracks, that accused and humbled and consoled me all at once? Those babies were rescued from filth, neglect, and abuse—Yet, they both cried a lot in the days that followed because they missed their mother.
I feed my kids veggies and whole wheat (at least some of the time). I bathe and clothe them. I’m married to their father and I might even look to some (distant and casual) observers as though I’ve got my life somewhat together. But the really true truth here is that I’m no less in need of forgiveness than the mother who left those kids under the bridge. Nor is this desperately-needed forgiveness available to me in any other special place than it is for her, homemade yogurt and hygiene notwithstanding.
And—astoundingly, humblingly—when my desperate sinfulness spills over, as it too often does, onto them, my kids are just as grudgelessly ready with their love and their seemingly effortless forgiveness, as were those precious little ones whose mother failed more publicly than I.
Rebekah wrote this one a long time ago, and I still think about it. I think about it because at the end of every day I can count so many times that I’ve screwed up this motherhood thing, again, and yet I can’t count a single time that a child of mine has gone to bed with anger in his heart against me. All this love and trust in their hearts, their eyes, their arms, always at the ready, all undeserved—an overflowing of grace, pure grace, the grace their Heavenly Father so richly and recklessly bestows—thanks be to our prodigal God!