Best-Selling Parenting and Children's Book Author

Grace has a Face…It’s Yours

[Excerpt reprinted from Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting by L.R.Knost. Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and StagesWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood; and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline by L.R.Knost also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

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“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”
Luke 18:16

toddler girlThe tiny girl stood timidly at the top of the stairs, her small face anxious as she called out in toddler-eze, “Dada, do you comin?”

The man sitting in front of a small group of church leaders gathered in his living room grimaced. “Oops! Forgot I told her I’d be up in five minutes to tuck her in and say her prayers.” He shook his head and glanced around the room with a self-deprecating grin, “I forget my promises more often than not, unfortunately. Hazards of a busy schedule, I guess.” He sighed, “I told her to wait in her bed for me. Now I have to go spank her, poor thing. It’ll be the third time today. I wish parenting was easier.”

An older man stood and gestured to the others in the room to gather around the man. “Let’s pray for strength for our brother to fulfill his fatherly duties unwaveringly and cheerfully.”

As the church leaders joined hands and prayed, the lone woman in the group stood aside. She looked from the tiny face still peering down through the stair railing to the gathering of adults solemnly praying over the little girl’s father, her heart racing as a flood of memories darkened her mind.

The prayer ended, and the father started up the steps.

The woman’s breath caught in her throat as a smile lit the toddler’s face when she saw her daddy approaching, her little hand reaching out trustingly to take his as he led her back to her bedroom. The bedroom door closed and silent moments passed, then muffled thwaps and cries of pain split the silence. A few minutes later the door opened, letting the sound of the small girl’s sobs drift clearly down the stairs before they were muffled again as the father emerged, his own eyes wet with tears, and closed the door softly behind him. The father hastily wiped his eyes, then rejoined the group downstairs.

The church leaders patted the father on the back, reassuring him that everyone made mistakes and forgot things at times, so he shouldn’t feel guilty about forgetting his promise to his child. They offered a few pieces of sage advice about securing a child’s unquestioning obedience with consistent punishment and reminded him to be unwavering in its application.

Then they returned to their meeting, trying to come up with a church program to share the unconditional love and freely given grace of their Heavenly Father with the wounded, the broken, the lost. The woman excused herself, and as she moved toward the front door she heard one man propose that they call the new program, ‘Grace is for Everyone.’

She barely made it to her car before collapsing into soul-shaking sobs.

The woman had been that little girl, once upon a life-time ago. Now she was the wounded, the broken, the lost. Her childhood wounds so often gaped and grasped, sucking any momentary joy from her heart and unexpectedly festering into flashes of anger that shocked her when they suddenly surfaced. Her broken trust shattered her relationship with her heavenly Daddy again and again as she grappled to understand and accept an unconditional love that she had never experienced at the hands of her earthly father. Her way seemed littered with roadblocks and pitfalls as she wandered in the darkness of a lost world, terrified that she would fail and be lost forever.

With a shuddering breath, the woman started her car and drove away, her heart aching for a tiny girl sobbing herself to sleep alone in a dark room and for an adult who would soon be doing the same thing.

*This is a true story. Some details have been changed for confidentiality.

How much different might it have been if the story had gone this way, instead:

The tiny girl stood timidly at the top of the stairs, her small face anxious as she called out in toddler-eze, “Dada, do you comin?”

The man sitting in front of a small group of church leaders gathered in his living room grimaced. “Oops! Forgot I told her I’d be up in five minutes to tuck her in and say her prayers.” He shook his head and glanced around the room with a self-deprecating grin, “I forget my promises more often than not, unfortunately. Hazards of a busy schedule, I guess.” He sighed, “I told her to wait in her bed for me. Now I have to go apologize to her, poor thing. It’ll be the third time I’ve had to apologize for dropping the ball today. I wish parenting was easier.”

An older man grinned and said, “Go take care of your little girl. We can wait.”

The father started up the stairs.

As the church leaders chatted while they waited for the man to return, the lone woman in the group sat silently. She looked at the tiny face still peering down through the stair railing, and her heart raced as a flood of memories darkened her mind.

The woman’s breath caught in her throat as a smile lit the toddler’s face when she saw her daddy approaching, her little hand reaching out trustingly to take his as he led her back to her bedroom. The bedroom door closed and silent moments passed, then muffled giggles wafted through the silence. A few minutes later the door opened, letting the sound of the small girl whispering, “Dood night, Dada!” drift clearly down the stairs as the father emerged, his eyes wet with tears, and closed the door softly behind him. The father hastily wiped his eyes, then rejoined the group downstairs.

As the father sat down, he cleared his throat, a bemused smile lighting his face. “I guess that’s why Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me,’” he said, “because children are so good at Jesus the Gentle Parent final front covergiving unconditional love and forgiving and trusting. No matter how many times I disappoint that little girl, no matter how many promises I break, she always forgives me and trusts me completely.”

The church leaders smiled and nodded, reassuring him that everyone made mistakes and forgot things at times, so he shouldn’t feel guilty about forgetting his promise to his child, after all, he was only human. They offered a few pieces of advice about juggling a busy schedule with children and reminded him that family always comes first.

Then they returned to their meeting, trying to come up with a church program to share the unconditional love and freely given grace of their Heavenly Father with the wounded, the broken, and the lost, both in their church and in their community. One leader mentioned, “I think that beautiful analogy about your daughter you just shared would make a perfect starting point for our program.” As the others in the room nodded their approval, someone proposed that they call the new program, ‘Grace is for Everyone.’

A few minutes later, the meeting broke up and everyone made their way home, but the woman sat in the dark driveway in her car with tears running down her cheeks.

She had been that little girl, once upon a life-time ago, waiting…hoping for a father’s love, but she had never received the compassion and humanity that she had witnessed that evening. Her childhood wounds so often gaped and grasped, sucking any momentary joy from her heart and unexpectedly festering into flashes of anger that shocked her when they suddenly surfaced. Her broken trust shattered her relationship with her heavenly Daddy again and again as she grappled to understand and accept an unconditional love that she had never experienced at the hands of her earthly father. Her way seemed littered with roadblocks and pitfalls as she wandered in the darkness of a lost world, terrified that she would fail and be lost forever.

With a slight smile, the woman started her car and drove away, her heart swelling with the unfamiliar feelings of hope and healing as she thought of a tiny girl peacefully sleeping in the safety of her father’s love and of an adult who might actually be doing the same thing for the first time in as long as she could remember.

Here’s the thing, parents, either grace is sufficient for all or it is sufficient for none. There is no in-between. You are your children’s first taste of God, their first understanding of love, their first vision of grace. How you treat them in that capacity will inevitably affect their relationship with Christ. Choose love, because he is Love in the flesh. Choose gentleness, because he is the Gentle Shepherd. Choose grace, because he died so that you could.

Grace has a face…

It’s yours.

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.”
Philippians 4:9

Related posts:

Stealing God’s Gift: Free Will is a Gift to be Nurtured, Not a Curse to be Broken

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting

Tattered Tapestries: Weaving Trust Through the Chaos

Fear Doesn’t Lead to Faith: Becoming Your Child’s Safe Place

Where Did You Learn Love, Child?

Gentle Journeys: A Book Club for a New Generation

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.

5 Responses

  1. Jane

    Ah my heart!!! I need to get this book. I love your writing, thank you x

    June 9, 2014 at 5:40 pm

  2. Lizzy

    This was just what I needed tonight, my heart is heavy, the world is so hostile to little ones sometimes. I am so glad there are those like you to spread a little gentleness and hope on their behalf.

    On behalf of my future children, thank-you 🙂

    June 9, 2014 at 6:27 pm

  3. Oh tears this really made me sob for a while
    Gets the point across perfectly.

    June 9, 2014 at 11:43 pm

  4. Pingback: Where did you learn love, child? | Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources

  5. Donna C

    We had a rough morning this morning – none of us behaved well. It’s hard to read this now, knowing that I did such a bad job of showing grace to my kids. I have already apologised to one of them, and will be apologising to another shortly… thank you for this reminder of the importance of trying again tomorrow!

    June 30, 2014 at 3:05 am

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