Nothing has revealed my sinfulness and need of a Savior like being a mom. Parenting my children showed me aspects of myself that I never knew were there–and didn’t like much! I never knew, for example, that I had a problem with anger until I had kids. In my teacher-life, I’d had plenty of students that pushed my buttons. But never the way my 2-year-old or 10-year-old children could.
Maybe that’s why I was so struck by one of my Lenten readings this week from Walter Wangerin’s Reliving the Passion. Wangerin points out that one of the reasons for reliving the Passion of our Lord during Lent is that it helps us to see our sin. He talks about how his relationship with his wife becomes a mirror in which he can see, when he sins against her, the suffering his sin has caused. A mirror that hides nothing and breaks through his denials and excuses. He calls it a mirror of dangerous grace.
That’s what my family is to me. My husband—and especially my children—are mirrors of dangerous grace. When I put self ahead of them—or even them ahead of God, a subtle but tempting idol—I see in their faces and behavior both my sin and its consequences. I see my desperate need of a Savior. A Savior Who actually chose to bear the consequences of my sin (while my kids, of course, had no choice).
When I apologize to my children, as I’ve had to do countless times, and receive their forgiveness, I am reminded of my need to confess to God and be forgiven. And I learn what the freedom of forgiveness feels like.
I’m also reminded of my constant, daily, moment-by-moment need of Jesus. Recently my daughter, the mother of a 3-year-old and 6-month-old, posted on her Facebook page: “My needs today–sweat, coffee, Jesus.” A friend commented: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” Two moms who know what their deepest needs are. Sort of a “severe mercy” (borrowing from C. S. Lewis) that we receive by being a mom.
I suspect the words will haunt me throughout Lent: dangerous grace. Dangerous because I see my sin in all its awful reality and realize that (Was it Luther who said this?) “We carry His nails in our pockets.” Grace because He came. He died. He rose again. He forgives. He lavishes His grace upon us. He grows us all the way into Glory.
It snowed this week in Wisconsin. Normally not an unusual event here. But we’ve had little snow so far this year. So when I woke up yesterday morning with a winter wonderland in my back yard, it took my breath away. All the dreary, shabby winter had been covered with pure, sparkling snow.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18) Thank you, Jesus, for mirrors of dangerous grace. Thank you that I can say with the Psalmist: “wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7)