I have decided that while there is a great deal of discussion about girls going through adolescence, those of us raising boys are generally ill informed, ill equipped and sometimes just downright ill….that last one is mostly because of the odors they omit at this stage.
This past year has been a doozy for us as we feel like we are just along for the crazy roller coaster ride that is puberty. We’re not sure if it’s worse going through it first-hand or experiencing it with your children. Either way, it’s not pretty. And boys are not even a little bit exempt from the mood swings and general ridiculousness.
I freely admit that I haven’t always handled the obvious hormonal surges very well. Sometimes I feel like I’m saying the same thing to my teenager that I said to him when he was my 5 year old.
“Did you brush your teeth?”
“Why didn’t you tie your shoelaces?”
“Do you realize your shirt is on inside out AND backwards?”
One week, not too long ago, my husband and I felt like every single encounter we were having with this man-child of ours was a struggle. It seemed like there wasn’t a conversation that occurred that wasn’t filled with tension and drama and rolled eyes and slammed doors. So, when youth group night rolled around, I freely admit to being more than ready to drop off our boy at church and hope that the Holy Spirit could do a better job of getting through to him than I was doing.
But, he didn’t want to go. He grumbled and complained and whined and, frankly, I just tuned it all out (kind of like how I tuned out his calling out to me from his time out spot on the bottom step when he was little) and somehow managed to get him in the car.
It was quiet in the car for most of the short drive to church but as we pulled up to the youth building my son said, “Mom, I really don’t want to go.” To which I replied, “Oh you’ll have fun once you get inside!” He slowly got out of the car and I watched him walk towards the door with his shoulders slumped and his head down.
And, honestly, I had every intention of just driving off. But, I didn’t. I waited. I’m not exactly sure why. And within a minute I saw my boy walking back out the door searching the parking lot for my car. He spotted me and raced over, flung open the door and said, “Mom, I don’t see any of my friends and I’m really tired and I just don’t want to go tonight!”
I wish I could say that my initial reaction was one of grace and understanding. But, it wasn’t. I told him to get in the car and that if he was so tired that he should probably just go to bed when we got back home. He said something snarky in return and I said something snarky back and then we sat in stoney silence.
As we worked our way back through downtown, I felt such an overwhelming urge to start praying for him…for me…for us. I felt myself relaxing and my heart softening and as I glanced over at this boy of mine, I suddenly knew what I needed to do.
I purposely missed our turn. The turn that would take us back towards our side of town. It took him a few seconds before he realized and said, “Hey, where are we going?”
“We’re going to get a slice of cake”, I replied. “Why?”, he asked, “Because I think you need a piece of cake and we need a chance to just sit and talk.”, I answered.
He was quiet for a few moments and then I noticed the tears beginning to roll down his cheeks. I asked him what was wrong and he said, “I don’t feel like I deserve cake.”
I sighed a big sigh and felt all the feelings, and said, “Well, buddy, sometimes when we feel we don’t deserve something is the EXACT time when we need it the most.”
He looked at me and smiled, wiped the tears from his face and I could sense his entire demeanor beginning to change. It was like the dark cloud that had been hanging over our car was suddenly lifted and the sunlight began to shine through.
We arrived at our favorite little bakery and he wasted no time choosing a flavor of cake. As we sat at the little table next to the window, we began to talk about what has been going on in his life during this first year of middle school. How hard it is, how some of his friendships have changed, how overwhelmed he felt and how he didn’t know why sometimes he was fine and then the next minute was like a crazy person.
And I told him that I understood. Because I was once in middle school too. I told him that while it may feel like this stage is going to last forever, that it might help him to try to remember that it won’t. I reminded him of how great he is. How God has given him so many wonderful qualities and how much he is loved by his family.
As we drove home that evening, I couldn’t help but think about grace. And about how, in that moment in the car, my son understood really understood, really felt, what it means.
I believe that it is only when we acknowledge our undeservedness, when we feel it right down in the very bottom of our souls, that we can truly experience the full magnitude of receiving unmerited grace.
My son didn’t think he deserved cake because of his behaviour. And yet, in that moment, eating a slice of cake with his mom and having a chance to just escape from the world for a bit was exactly what he needed the most.
Because you see…
Grace is the slice of cake we didn’t even realize we wanted until it was offered.
Grace is the sunshine that pierces the cloud of our sins.
Grace is the blue ribbon at the end of a race we lost.
Grace is finding waterfall when we were only looking for a stream.
God’s grace comes along at the exact moment when we feel the least deserving. It isn’t held at bay until we get our act together. Because if it was, let’s face it, we would never get to experience it.
And our Heavenly Father wants us to experience it. He wants it to flood our souls and replace our fears and our sins and our guilt with it so that we can truly know just how much we are loved by Him.
“Grace is an energy; not a mere sentiment; not a mere thought of the Almighty; not even a word of the Almighty. It is as real an energy as the energy of electricity. It is a divine energy; it is the energy of the divine affection rolling in plenteousness toward the shores of human need.” -Benjamin Jowet
On a regular weekday, my son experienced the feeling of grace rolling towards the shores of his need. And I pray that this seemingly small, earthly encounter gave him a glimpse of the abounding grace that God longs to lavish upon him.
I hope that he always remembers that our love for him has nothing to do with what he does and everything to do with who he is.
And that we can always be counted on to come through with a piece of cake when he needs it the most.