I don’t remember exactly how old I was. Maybe nine or ten years old. It was the night of our Christmas musical at church. One of my favorite times of the year.
I was giddy with nervous excitement and as my friends and I gathered in the hall before going on stage to perform, our voices must have gotten a little too boisterous.
Then, SHE came around the corner, clad in a vibrant green dress, her eyes and face as stern as can be.
She got right in my face and let me know just how loud I was being and how much I needed to close my mouth.
Then she was gone.
The tears welled up. I had been so excited. I hadn’t meant to be loud. It had just happened.
I swallowed the tears and in that moment I made a vow. One day when I was grown up, I would never, never, forget what it was like to be a child.
I would never be like that.
It’s been years now since that night in the hallway. Truth be told, I had forgotten all about it.
I grew up. Matured. At least I like to think so.
I have three little hearts under my care now. Day in and day out.
“Use inside voices.” “Don’t run too fast.” “Watch your step.” “Listen to mommy.”
My world is filled with words and phrases of admonition, caution, and instruction.
We were in Chickfila last week and I was wrangling my own crew and I heard her voice again.
No, not the lady in the green dress.
But that same harsh voice, “Get back here, NOW!”
I think the whole restaurant turned to stare at this moment going down with the little disobedient child in tow.
I looked away and my heart shuttered. No, not in condemnation of her, but of myself. That tone, I recognized it. Not just with the lady in the green dress. But me. Not just in a way I may have used before but the echoes of my heart I have heard far too often.
Those moments when as a mother I have been pushed beyond my own capacity and patience.
Those instances when I thought I was handling the situation just right, but oh boy, was I making it worse.
As I watched that little girl in Chickfila, I remembered. I remembered that defeated little girl in the hallway so many years before.
That little girl who vowed to never forget what it was like to see the world as a child. To mess up quite by accident or to willfully disobey.
There’s no denying it, being a mother is hard. It rattles my self-sufficiency. It exposes my self-centeredness. It takes all of me and then some more.
But I never want to forget that the work I do is much more significant than I usually think it is.
I work with little hearts every day. Precious hearts. Sinful hearts. Sensitive and immature hearts.
My voice resonates. It means something. At least it should.
I am called to speak with authority. To demand obedience (Proverbs 19:18). To teach and train. But I also am called to not provoke to anger (Col 3:21). To set an example, as an overseer shepherds his flock (1 Peter 5:3).
It doesn’t mean I will be perfect or that my children’s spiritual state depends on me. Or that I should speak in a sing-song or baby voice.
But I am nurturing souls. And I don’t want to forget that. My words echo beyond the confines of the kitchen, or the nursery, to the chambers of tiny hearts and minds.
I have been studying the books of Matthew and Mark this fall and I am amazed at how Jesus deals with his disciples.
So often, they just didn’t get it.
But He had compassion on them. He used parables to explain things. He went beyond the external circumstances straight to their hearts. He didn’t ignore sin (quite the opposite) or sugarcoat the truth, but He loved and cared for their souls.
And when I think of how the Lord has dealt with me, I am overwhelmed. I can say Isaiah 40:11 has been true in my own life.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
I know I will have hard days with my kids in the future as their sin natures get tangled up in mine.
But I have something that they yet do not have. His tender grace met me. He sought me, His voice of grace came to me through His Word when I was going the other way.
I pray, that as I interact with my children, that, THAT, is what I will never forget. Because the lady in the green dress is not the problem. I am. And I will fail. But His grace is sufficient and it is greater.
And I pray that God will give me the grace to use my voice to build up and not tear down. To speak with wisdom and kindness. To call out sin and be stern when I need to be. But to always remember His grace in all my moments of my failing as well as theirs. And that one day, they will hear His voice louder than all the rest.