Grace Sometimes Means Saying No

“My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child He loves that He disciplines; the child He embraces, He also corrects.” Hebrews 12:6 (The Message)


This year, I’ve been on the lookout for what grace is and isn’t. Recently, I was given a choice: To figure out if extending grace meant rescuing or allowing natural consequences. Sometimes, in my opinion, grace is being given the chance to experience natural consequences.

Two separate times this week I was presented with the challenge: Rescue or allow a chance for independence. The first time, I offered the chance for independence. I’m not a stickler for order and passing the white glove test in our home. Even after our massive organization this fall, our house is still comfortably lived in. However, I do have an issue with folding one’s clothes and putting them away neatly. My opinion is this: If I take the time to wash, dry, and fold your clothes – at least take the responsibility to transfer them neatly into your drawers. This is definitely a skill that has to be learned and is not acquired through osmosis. So, after having reminded nicely, more than once, I realized practice might be necessary. All disorganized clothes were placed in a pile in the middle of the room to be folded and put away by the owner.

The time from when I did that to the time our child had an opportunity to put them away was a several-hour span. During that time, I fought with myself. “Am I teaching a lesson or frustrating my child? Is this one of those ‘not-so-great’ parenting moments? Will my child learn more if I choose to come alongside and help reorganize the clothes or would that make things worse?”

I was very close to telling our child to forget it, but instead hung back, watched, and waited. What happened next was wonderful. Our child took ownership of the problem and ended up doing a job much better than I expected. Not only was our child proud of what was accomplished, but I realized what happened was a good thing. And weeks later, the clothes are still neat.

Later that week, we were hurrying to finish dinner before leaving for another commitment and our kids were slow in finishing. I had already told them they would get nothing else to eat all night if they didn’t finish. However, I also knew it wasn’t their favorite meal and they were eating without complaining. As a result, I decided to offer “grace.” When I said that to our four-year-old, he said, “What’s grace?” My answer: “Getting a snack at Gramma’s even though you didn’t finish your soup.” The smile that lit his face was priceless and the rest of the week we had many less food battles than usual.

Have you ever gotten frustrated because you wanted God to answer your prayer one way and it appeared as though He was ignoring you or giving you an answer you didn’t want to hear? Sometimes I think God handles us the way we handle our children (minus the wishy-washy self talk since God knows the perfect solution from the beginning). There are times when He realizes we might need some practice in certain areas in order to grow. Other times, He sees that we have the right attitude but our circumstances are lousy, and so grace is given.

In the past, I used to have a negative attitude when God chose practice for me instead of the easier route. Now, however, I’m quicker to see that by Him allowing natural consequences, He knows I’m quite capable of what He is calling me to do and He wants to give me a chance to grow and develop. Just as with our child and the clothes pile, it’s a compliment to think God feels I’m capable to handle, with His help, what is placed before me. At the time I might wish for an easier path, but when it’s over, hopefully I will see how much I’ve learned. But, other times, as with family dinner, when I come to God with the right attitude but not always the right ending, He gives me the gift of grace and a chance to start fresh. I’m learning to embrace both instances as they both serve a special purpose.

My children are learning that sometimes grace in our house means cancelling the offense as though it never happened while other times it means using natural consequences to grow and develop a little bit more. If I stay close to God, He’ll help me determine which choice is given.

What about you? What’s your response when God doesn’t answer the way you hoped He would? What about when He answers in a much better way than you ever imagined?

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

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