In an evening class for my church, a dear friend and mentor of mine raised this question in passing, and I immediately wrote it down.
“When you first teach your kids to say “thank you,” are they really showing gratitude?”
For months after first reproducing those sweet little high pitch wordlings, kids still have no idea what it means to be grateful. Eventually, they learn that we like it when they say it after we give them something. And we are satisfied with our little mimics when they engage the “thank you” in any way. We don’t require full understanding, we don’t berate them when they say it in the wrong place, or with improper pronunciation. In fact, we know that understanding will come, so watching them screw it all up is often wonderfully entertaining. When my daughter was a toddler, she used to say thank you whenever we said thank you to her. She thought we wanted her to repeat it or something, and it always made us laugh. In other words, we had patience with her. Why don’t we have the same grace with ourselves?
I think we are so hard on ourselves because we have forgotten that we are really just children. I forget that I have a loving Father who has more patience with me then I will ever have with my kids. When I fully embrace my “child” status, I can forgive myself for staying up too late or not finding quiet time to pray. No more kneading my stomach into knots about what activities we can or can’t afford to put the kids into. Just like the kids and “thank you,” my job is not to always get it right, but to stay engaged. All the stress I put into worrying about those things wastes a lot of time and energy and doesn’t help. I’m learning to embrace God’s forgiveness, forgive myself, drop my questions and listen for the quiet reminder of God’s love for me.
What would it look like in your life if you gave yourself a break, stopped apologizing for everything and remembered that making mistakes is part of the cost of being human?
What would it look like in your life if you put down all the questions that are stressing you out and decided that you’ll know when you need to know?
I think it would look like faith. Not a cheap, one way, “I gotta believe,” pop song type faith, but a living, breathing, life transforming, powered by the Holy Spirit of God kind of faith. It is a gift I have been given – I might as well use it, and rest.
For some of you, this post might seem familiar. Yesterday, I began typing the stages I sometimes go through on the way to forgiving myself. After a few minutes I remembered this post from years ago and searched back to find that it was one of the most read posts of that season. I made a couple of small edits, but it already gets to the heart of what I was trying to say.