A recent story from my niece Diana made me both thankful and thoughtful. She experienced a "teachable moment" with her youngest son Caleb. This is the Encarta website definition of a teachable moment.
A moment of educational opportunity: a time at which a person, especially a child, is likely to be particularly disposed to learn something or particularly responsive to being taught or made aware of something.
In this story both Mom and Son learned something about grace. Diana picks up the story.
Caleb was supposed to be in our backyard playing. That was the deal we had made. When I looked out he was not there. By the time I got to the front door, he was there holding his eye and screaming that he could not see. After a quick look, I decided we would be off to the emergency room.
In the car I asked Caleb what had happened. He reluctantly shared that he had ventured down to the neighbor's yard to play croquet. I was pleased that he told the truth because we both already knew he had broken the rules. I was upset with Caleb for not obeying and that was obvious to him as we rushed down the highway to the hospital.
In the ER Caleb sat quietly for a long time. Finally he asked me if his eye was going to be okay. I did not know the answer to his question and I did not want to say something that could be untrue. I could only tell him that I didn't know and that we would see what the doctor had to say.
Caleb was quiet again for what seemed like a very long time. Finally he reached over from his ER bed and grabbed my hand. "Mom, I know you are upset with me, but will you pray for my eye anyway?"
What an amazing lesson for Diana and for all of us. Caleb knew that his actions were wrong. The consequences of those actions had placed him in the hospital. But instead of getting mad and blaming someone else for his injury Caleb wanted to take his pain and his wrong actions to the throne of grace. I thought of Jesus and how He often challenged us with the simple faith of children. This story in Matthew is one example.
About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, "I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven."
Caleb had modeled that humility as he appealed for grace from Jesus…and from his Mom. He got both.
Diana finished the story.
I sat down on the side of his bed and together we prayed for his eye. I assured him that Mom would always pray for him no matter what the circumstance and that I could NEVER be that upset with him. Shortly after, the Doctor came in and said Caleb was a lucky little boy, and that it appeared his eye would be fine. Caleb looked over at me and smiled. How could I remain even remotely upset with him now?
That is grace. A little boy disobeyed and cost his parents a little money and a few grey hairs. But he was forgiven because he is loved. Caleb learned that grace is always available when he makes a mistake because of that love. Diana learned that the humble faith of a child brought perspective on what really matters.
Satan doesn't want us to think about God's grace when we sin. Satan wants us to think that God is too upset with us to love us if we wander away and break the rules. Recently I wrote about a personal failing in my own life. I was busy beating myself up but then I had a "Caleb' moment and I remembered again what grace means to me. Yes, I had failed miserably. Yes, I was disappointed in myself. Yes, I was a little embarrassed that I have written and spoken so boldly and flopped so easily. But here is what poured over my soul from the Holy Spirit.
You are my child.
I love you.
Grace always takes me by surprise. I am not conditioned by this world to expect love and acceptance when I have failed. I am conditioned to expect condemnation, shame, and rejection. But there was the Father God patiently and lovingly dealing with me.
Like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, God is waiting to race to greet us when we turn away from self and toward Him. There is no cleanup required. A heart of repentance is all that He asks. That is the same God that gently instructed this mother and child during a teachable moment. His grace is sufficient…and always amazing.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church