The shoppers shifted from leg to leg as they waited to buy ink cartridges and memo pads. The large warehouse was a cool retreat from the burning sun outside and customers walked the aisles looking for last minute school binders, pencil sharpeners, and calculators. Typically, a store like this is being piped with elevator music, pleasant enough to keep the shoppers inside, likely to buy more products.
But not that day. A very disturbing sound echoed through the store.
The mother pushed the rusty metal shopping cart up and down the aisles. The young little girl sat, eyes looking downward. It was obvious that this was a common experience for her. The raucous was so deafening, it took a few minutes for the shoppers to register what in the world was happening.
And yet the girl simply sat there, her mother spewing, loudly, a litany of faults and putdowns. Up the row, down the row, not caring who could hear her, going about the business of destruction.
It was shocking. So shocking in fact, that at first, the people in the store were paralyzed. Surely, she must be high on something, they reasoned. As the mother headed towards the door, they leaped into action attempting to detain her while a clerk called the police. True, no blood was spilling from the assault, but it was obvious to every person there that a beating, a life-quenching murderous massacre of the soul was in their midst. Right there next to a ball-point pen display. And they couldn’t let it continue.
I wondered, is this happening more often than we realize? Behind closed car doors and white picket fences? Is it part of the morning routine in the house of Christians getting their kids ready for school? Are more parents than we can imagine forgetting that simply because the bruise isn’t visible that it still hurts?
You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
Are we pretending that if we only said one impatient, unkind word to our child that we are any different than the woman in the store?
I close my eyes and I can see the faces of so many children I have seen at the park, the swimming pool, the school drop off line, and the grocery store who never say a word but whose eyes tell it all. “I’m a disappointment”. And I have seen the head-hanging sadness in the posture of my own.
Try to find an example of God’s disappointment in the Bible. You won’t find it. Not once is there a time when He is disappointed in us. Never.
He draws us with loving-kindness. He loved us when we were enemies. He is always hopeful towards us. Always believes the best. Would our children say that about us?
We have pretty high standards in the Lia household. No doubt about it. But we are NOT a house of shame. I can’t think of a time when God ever sent me, head hanging to my room. He prods me to the right path, He allows trials and tests, but He is never frowning, and always speaks that which will give me life.
My husband and I made a decision recently.
We often send our kids to a quiet place to cool down in the midst of a conflict. But we wanted to retrain ourselves about how we view this time and its purpose. Typically, we use that quiet time to talk about choices, sin, restoration, and prayer. But simply rephrasing what we call it helps us all know that fear and anger must not be a part of this process.
So we ditched the “Time Out Chair” and replaced it with a “Mercy Seat”.
Because honestly, aren’t we naturally good at being hard on ourselves and understanding our faults? But, oh to have an early understanding of the abounding grace of God!
Our boys sit down in the "Mercy Seat" and we talk it out. We gently remind them of what God calls us to do, and more importantly, why. We want them to always know that when we sin, God’s mercy and grace abound. It’s a reminder to me as a mother-when I tell them to have a minute in “The Mercy Seat” it immediately cools me down. My sons are a gift, immature, learning, sinners just like me, recipients of mercy unending. It’s not enough for me to have their outward behavior conformed to what looks good on the outside.
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. Romans 3:23-25
This mama wants them to experience mercy. The mercy of God’s loving nature to us, though undeserved, is what is going to compel them towards Godly character. Not my punishment in the time out chair! Seeing my child sit in a seat of mercy brings sharply to mind that the public display of Christ on the cross was my very own Mercy Seat. How then, can I condemn my own son?
Train him, teach him, call sin what it is, yes. But I can’t punish a son in a mercy seat knowing the punishment for his sin and mine has already been nailed to a cross and paid long ago. I can only show mercy when I am aware of the great mercy I too have already received.
I’m not afraid that my gentleness equates to letting someone off the hook. I know the effectiveness of mercy. I see it in the fruit of the lives of my kids.
Just two nights ago, one of my boys lay on his bed for some “Mercy Seat” time. He was there for just a moment before I came in to minister to him.
He wept from deep inside his heart. I’ll never forget the tears and the look on his face.
As soon as I got close enough, he threw himself on me. Buried his face in my neck. Little arms clinging tightly, fingers intertwining in my hair. I didn’t even have a chance to speak. “Mommy, I’m SO sorry that I have been naughty and sinned!” he wailed. And oh, the contriteness of spirit he gushed! There was nothing I could do verbally to train him in that moment because the lesson had already been learned. His tears were not out of anger and frustration or from feeling like he was getting punished. They were tears from a heart that knew he had sinned and he desperately wanted to make it right. He knew in his heart that he has a God and a Mom who love him and treat him as his sins do not deserve. And it elicited a deep and heartfelt response. Repentance-the very thing I care most about as a mom.
It took only a few moments of hugs and consolation, and words of forgiveness, and he fell right to sleep. Peaceful as can be. Restored.
It breaks my heart to think of how often I fail in this with my sons. But then again, God’s own mercy towards me as a mother restores me and revives me to begin again.
I don’t know what came of that situation in the store that day or how that little girl is doing now. But the impression of that scene won’t be long forgotten as a lesson to me.
And every time I’m tempted to let my own words get the best of me, I picture Jesus there in our “Mercy Seat” and it stops me in my tracks. I can just imagine my little boy climbing up into His lap and the three of us partnering to mold his heart. Shaping a life. And instead of my mouth running off, my heart overflows. Mercy.