Grace for the Playground

See to it that no one misses the grace of God.
— Hebrews 12:15

"So what are you going to do today if your friend pinches you at school?” I glanced back in the rear view mirror to see her struggling with the conflict presented to her. Just yesterday she had gotten in trouble at school for pinching back, so we had spent some time talking through our options. “Well, mom, I’m going to try to not pinch him back. My brain knows I should tell him to stop doing that, leave him alone and tell my teacher. But mom, sometimes my fingers just do whatever they want to do.” I stifled a laugh, as I reiterated the best way to handle kindergarten conflict and suggested that she and her brain work hard to try to keep her fingers under control today. “I’ll try hard Mommy. I know I should always do the right thing, even if my friends do the wrong things. But sometimes it’s really hard.” I hear ya, sister! It is hard.

I wish I could tell her that always doing the right thing would get easier to do as she grew up, but the God’s honest truth is that sometimes it just doesn’t. When people wrong us, just like my four-year-old, our brains know how we should react, but sometimes our fingers (or mouths) just seem to have a mind of their own and before we know it, we respond out of emotions and in bad judgement. We may have outgrown the embarrassment of seeing our clips being moved up or down on a behavior chart, but the relational consequences are usually much bigger than just some playground tears or sitting in time out until we cool down.

Why is it so easy for us to hold grudges, withhold forgiveness and act out in bitterness and anger? Maybe, for those moments, we have forgotten what grace feels like. Perhaps for a minute our heart longs to cover up our own imperfections by shining a light on someone else’s mistakes.

Our reactions to someone doing us wrong is such a clear picture of how much of God’s grace we are allowing to flow through us. When words sting our hearts or actions leave us feeling betrayed or broken, we have a choice to make. We can react out of our hurt places and fire back nastiness. Or, we can remember just how much grace God has given us for all the times we act wrongly against others, and we can do the right thing. We can set an example of forgiveness, encouragement, kindness and grace. We can stop the cycle of condemnation, destruction, accusations and unkindness. But we have to make sure our heads and hearts keep our mouths and fingers under control.

‘Teacher,’ they said to Jesus, ‘this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?’
— John 8:5

She was caught in the very act of one of the most scandalous acts. Yes, the law was clear on this matter, but their attempt at punishment was full of indignation and self-righteousness. How many times have we thought similar things? If we gossip loud enough and make a big deal pointing at her “really bad” acts or at how badly I was wronged when he said or did, you name it, then we can feel better about the mistakes we made. If their sin is bigger than my sin, then maybe people won’t find out about my secret. In their pride and self-righteousness, the religious teachers and Pharisees were ready to stone this woman in a manner full of shame and condemnation. But Jesus stopped them.

[Jesus replied] ‘All right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!’
— John 8:7

Her actions were not written off as being acceptable. She had her own guilt to face from the laws she had clearly broken. We are no different. We have our own guilt and consequences to face and decisions to make about how we are going to proceed forward. But, like this woman, we have grace. We have the ability to show that grace to others in the way we react to their wrong-doings. Are we going to pinch back, spew angry words, seek revenge, and pile on shame and condemnation like the Pharisees? Or are we going to choose to think before we speak and deal with the behavior in love, without reacting in emotion?

And yes, my sweet girl, it is hard to always do the right thing, even when our friends sometimes don't. So let's try hard to control those fingers {and mouths} that have a mind of their own and pay attention to what we know is the right thing to do. Because, that is precisely why we need grace. That is why we have to start practicing showing grace on the playground.