Monday, September 3, 2012

Lessons in Grace

This post has been sitting in my drafts box for weeks. The title of it could have easily been phrased a thousand other ways. For example:
     Why I will Never Be a Manager;
     Motherly Instincts and Other Forms of Danger to Society;
     Stupid Things that Go Through My Head When I'm Angry;
     What NOT to Do;
     Let He Who Has No Sin Cast the First Stone;

But, I digress. I'll just stick with the original.

A few weeks ago, upon arriving at a small, local retail establishment, I walked by a car that was parked out front, right next to the sidewalk. The car was running. The windows were partially down in front. There was no one in the driver or passenger seat up front. But, to my shock and horror, there was a small child in a carseat in the back. There were actually two carseats, one with the sleeping child, the other empty.

As you can imagine, my mom/grammy instincts kicked into high gear. I stepped inside, saw the manager and promptly informed him about the situation. Fortunately, he was as concerned as I was. He went outside and immediately took ownership of with the situation. He told me later that the young mother's words were, "I was only going to be in there for 2 minutes. They're twins. I can't handle both of them in the store."

Had it been me who found said young mother, these are the immediate responses to that statement that went through my head:
     Calling her an idiot while ripping her hair out at the roots.
     Calling the police and accusing her of abandonment.
     Screaming something like, 'You can't handle them? Here's a word for you: ADOPTION!!!!!'
     Snatching the baby out of the car and the other out of the buggy and tucking one under each arm and  
     running for it.

I have no idea what I would have actually done had I gotten to her first. But, much to the manager's credit, and the safety of the young mother, cooler heads prevailed. His response was simple and direct.
     "Young lady, those 2 minutes could have you crying for the rest of your life."

Needless to say, I'm so thankful that he got to her first. How much more impact that must have had on her than all the angry, violent responses that went through my head. How much more gracious and kind his words were. How much more Christlike his compassionate answer was than my tirade would have been.

I was humbled. I was embarrassed. I saw her as a villain. But I was the one who wanted to act like one.

Yes, I'm still outraged that a mother would leave a sleeping baby in the car, with the car running, outside the door of a retail establishment. She should have known better. Maybe she did know better. But all that aside, it doesn't excuse what would have been my angry outburst toward her. Yes, I believe I needed to act, and quickly, when I saw the child in the car alone. No, my violent reaction would probably not have helped and certainly would not have represented Jesus well. Would I have actually played out my in-head scenarios in real life? I'm not sure. The 'mama lion' gene is a pretty strong one and not something to be messed with.

As I continued to think about this the rest of the day, I was heart-broken at how quickly I ran to judgement. She was young. Very young. She had twins. She may have been a single mom who has no one to help her with her children. She was still a kid herself. She could have chosen to abort those sweet babies. In my anger, offering her help or wisdom never entered my mind. All I saw was the danger to the child.

As Christ followers, we rub shoulders with the world on a different plane than those who don't know Him. We are called to be different, to react differently, to love unconditionally without condoning un-Christlike behavior. At my age, it's easy to forget how young and foolish I once was. This incident may have had more of an impact on me than it did on her. My prayer is that 'in real life' I would have been more loving, more instructive than destructive. I would like to believe that I would have. But I'm just not sure. The whole incident left me with the strong reminder of my loving Father's compassionate response to me. I did nothing to deserve his mercy or forgiveness. But He gave it. Willingly. And when I look at where I am and where I feel I should be, how self-centered and arrogant I can be, I still stand in amazement at His grace. May I grow to be more like Him. And, hopefully, the next time I see a young mother doing something foolish, I will step up and offer something more tangible that will make a difference in her life.


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