He collapsed into the living room a tear-soaked mess of utter despair.
“Buddy!” Toby exclaimed. “What’s wrong with you? What happened?”
The cries slowly boiled into panicked wails that made simple talking impossible.
“Mama. Said. I. Only. Have. One. More. Chance!” The sound of it was more than his five-year-old self could contain and mournful thunder billowed out of his soul.
“Whoa! Slow down, now. You have one more chance for what?”
“I can’t stop … ” He dissolved into the rapid, staccatoed, hyperventilated weepy inhales that only preschoolers can master.
“I just can’t st… I can’t stop …” He lowered his head, paused long and deep, and slowly inhaled to catch his fleeting breath. “I. Just. Can’t. Stop. Saying…. DOUCHE BAG!”
I can relate. Now, I don’t have a problem calling people “douche bag”; I have many other favorite terms of endearment to choose from. But, there are things that I know I shouldn’t do that I do. And things I should that I don’t.
Sometimes, it feels that when I make a choice to do good, the power to put muscle behind my decision bolts out the back door. If it is simply avoiding a phrase that may not be the sweetest, this is a more of an annoyance than anything. However, often the struggle is when I’ve made a decision that impacts my dreams or health or relationships or character. With little warning, my intentions are blindsided and I look down to see my will knocked flat on its behind. I try to dust my determination off, but it often feels like a losing battle.
I don’t think I’m alone. Whether we’re lying about why we’re late to work, struggling to find patience with our spouse, judging the people in our lives, wrestling with pornograpy and emotional affairs, or questioning whether God’s love for us is enough, we are often in all-out war with ourselves.
Even the Apostle Paul said, “What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.” (Romans 7:15 MSG)
So what do we do? Do we resign ourselves to a spirit-crushing twilight-zone trying over and over and over with the same repeated results? Do we throw our hands up and squeal, “I just can’t!”?
Anything worth its salt is worth fighting for. It requires screwing up over and over, and trying again and again. It deserves the gift of effort and pursuit, grace and gumption. Whatever it may be that inspires us to believe, whatever dream we hold in our heart, whatever sliver of idea we aim toward, nothing should quench it.
For little boys learning which words are appropriate for kindergarten, a few chances are enough before a consequence is given. For the rest of us Grace awards a second and third and fourth and infinitium number of do-overs. In Proverbs 24:16, we read that “The righteous man falls down seven times, but seven times, he rises again.” Another writer in the Old Testament described each morning as showered with brilliant new mercy.
I must be honest; I do not understand grace. It is not something that I learned in my early church experiences and at 41 it still feels like a foreign concept to me. But I am seeing it in scripture. I feel it in God’s presence. I hear it in his story. And I want to know it and accept it.
The next time I screw up and overreact to my kids, let stress and worry shadow the good in my life, or slap a “Hello, My Name Is God” sticker on my shirt and start taking control, I will remind myself of these fresh daily mercies.
Today and tomorrow and the next, embrace the grace. Let it flood over you and wash away the mistake. Let it drench the cries of “should” and free you to begin again.
And if anyone or anything says that it is too late, or enough is enough, or that’s just who you are, well… tell them not to be a douche.