Lessons in Grace: Combating Craziness by Calling People What They Are

People are crazy.  When you’re a parent of  school-age children, people are crazy.  When you’re a teacher in the spring time, people are especially crazy.  Coworkers are crazy.  Friends are crazy.  I myself am crazy. It’s dealing with this craziness that takes some effort.  What do you do when people and their actions seem to perpetuate chaos?  How do you keep your head when it seems everyone is losing theirs? (Kipling reference – Yes!) Recently, I heard Christian author Rachel Held Evans speak.  The topic of her lecture that evening was Communion and Baptism.  She is terribly funny, and she was able to keep my attention the whole time, which is no small feat.  One striking image she described is a church who practices baptism of the homeless.  When they baptize these people who are used to being mistreated or overlooked, they tell them, “The world will call you…….but today, we call you Beloved Child of God.”  It seemed like such a beautiful and reassuring statement about who we are to the world vs. who we are in Christ. Being a good little Presbyterian, I read a little more into this.  Isn’t everyone a Beloved Child of God, really?  Whether or not they have actively chosen God, He has clearly chosen them because He made them.  I decided this was something I really wanted to remember.  Little did I know the week to come was going to be particularly trying, and I would need this reminder to keep my own attitude and actions in check. As the week went on, when someone would exhibit behavior I found unfavorable, I would think to myself, “He is a beloved child of God.”  This simple reminder was humbling.  It didn’t really matter how much I wanted to throat-punch the person standing in front of me; remaining aware that they are loved and forgiven by God seemed to help me tolerate their behavior.  I kept doing it:

  • The student who complained that she doesn’t know anything about Anne Frank, yet I caught her playing on her phone in class – BELOVED CHILD OF GOD.
  • An employee at one of the kids’ schools who wouldn’t return my phone call and answer my timely questions – BELOVED CHILD OF GOD.
  • Hearing about the birth of a family member’s baby at the ballpark instead of text or phone call – BELOVED CHILD OF GOD.
  • When softball parents ask ridiculous questions to which they know I do not have the answers – BELOVED CHILDREN OF GOD.
  • When a coworker was unwilling to answer basic questions about a work assignment she’d already completed herself, but I still needed help – BELOVED CHILD OF GOD.
  • My kids, who had time for playing on their tablets but claimed they didn’t have time to brush their teeth – BELOVED CHILDREN OF GOD.
  • When contractor after contractor after contractor refuse to give an estimate on our garage job – BELOVED CHILDREN OF GOD.
  • When a parent saw fit to have their son call my daughter a brat at school – BELOVED CHILD OF GOD.
  • When people use the death of a mutual acquaintance to draw attention to themselves thus monopolizing grief and minimizing the feelings of others who are closely related – BELOVED CHILD OF GOD.
  • A parent on the opposing baseball team who distributed particularly unsportsmanlike behavior, even when it meant taunting a child who’d been injured – BELOVED CHILD OF GOD. (This one was REALLY difficult).
  • When people only call to ask for a favor – BELOVED CHILD OF GOD.
  • Employees at the bank who seem to have forgotten that they are paid to be helpful – BELOVED CHILDREN OF GOD.

It really was helpful to think of people in this way.  No matter how frustrated I was with them…..  No matter how much I wanted to establish myself as better than them in that moment……  No matter how badly they were behaving……THEY ARE BELOVED CHILDREN OF GOD. And in return, I found it easier to let go of my own mistakes.

  • When I lost my temper with a student – BELOVED CHILD OF GOD.
  • When I forgot career day and sent Tessa to school in normal clothes – BELOVED CHILD OF GOD.
  • When I bought all the ingredients for dinner except the most important one – BELOVED CHILD OF GOD.
  • When I sent numerous grumbling texts to my husband and best friend – BELOVED CHILD OF GOD.
  • When I heckled the umpire at the baseball game – BELOVED CHILD OF GOD.
  • Every single time I was impatient or spoke without thinking – STILL A BELOVED CHILD OF GOD.

One of the many definitions for grace is “mercy, clemency, pardon.”  And a lesson about God’s grace is actually what I gained from this exercise.  The more I made a conscious effort to show this grace to others by seeing them as someone loved unconditionally by God, the more I was able to realize  this important fact during the times I fall short myself. My husband has chuckled at the couple of times he’s caught me muttering, “He is a beloved child of God” under my breath.  I even texted a friend who knew about my reminders and asked jokingly, “Are you calling me a beloved child of God yet?” because I knew although she was going out of her way to help me, she was quite possibly rolling her eyes at me too . As much as I would love to say that this has helped me become a better person, I’m not sure that it has.  I am as sarcastic and impatient as ever.  But I do think that I’ve found a new understanding that I didn’t have before. Acknowledging who a person is in Christ makes it easier to excuse whatever indiscretion they’re  committing.  Similarly, reminding myself who I am in Christ certainly lessens the guilt I feel about messing up. I am relatively new to this “hidden grace” thing (see my Lenten post here if you don’t understand the reference), but I am surprised at the change within myself since I began calling people what they are – beloved children of God.  That’s a wonderful thing about God’s grace.  When we dig deep within ourselves to GIVE it, the more we RECEIVE it in return.

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