I LOVE natural consequences. And by love, I mean hate. At least when it comes to natural consequences manifested in my own life.
Things like, extra brownies = extra pounds. Dislike. (The camp life dining hall experience is not helping in that department by the way!)
Staying up late + getting up early = tired Mama. Not a fan. (I wish I were one of those people who could function on minimal hours of sleep each night.)
Surfing Facebook + watching reality TV before bed = haven’t finished any actual books in a while. Embarrassing. (Pretend you don’t know that about me.)
But when it comes to parenting, everything changes. Implementing natural consequences is invigorating to say the least!
Oh. You didn’t finish your dinner and now you have to eat it for breakfast? Bummer! (Wink. Serving soggy carrots and cold pork the next morning = sweet Mommy victory.)
What? You didn’t turn off the video game when I asked you to? Guess you have no screen time tomorrow. So sad. (Can’t you see the tears running down my cheeks?)
So when one of these stellar parenting moments teed up for me a couple of weeks ago – I wound up my driver and hit a hole in one.
Or so I thought. Until one of my daughters exemplified the x-factor (i.e., grace). Which, up until that point, wasn’t anywhere on my radar.
The story goes like this:
My BFF sister and her two adorable kids came to visit us here at Trail West. Nothing like a bonafide, wild west dude ranch experience for those grunge band loving, espresso drinking Seattle-ites.
I signed us all up for an “0-dark-hundred,” cowboy cookin’ Wrangler Breakfast! Katie and big kids would mount up on horses at 6:00 a.m. while I would accompany the littles hay-ride style on the “Big Red” truck and meet up at the cookout site.
As we were tucking a bunkroom full of cousins into bed the night before, I ever-so-politely told my Ethiopian born son it was time to put the book down so he could get plenty of sleep before the early morning wake-up call. As these things go somtimes, this gentle reminder was greeted with a disinterested shrug. Hmmmm.
“Let’s try that again,” I say. “Please put the book down so you’re able to wake up nice and early to ride horses.”
“I don’t want to ride horses anymore. I’m not going.”
“Really. That’s a bummer. Your cousins are visiting from Seattle and they are excited to do this with you.”
I grabbed the book and set it down. “Would you like a back scratch?” No response. “Okay then. Good night. I love you. See you in the morning.”
Sigh. Why do little corrections often end in a battle of wills? Subtle shrugs land like barbs in my heart.
Not too long after everyone in the room was sawing logs, this same child made his way into my room.
“Mom, my tummy hurts.”
“Well, how about a glass of water?” (and back to bed with your bad self – I think to myself.)
Just then, Dad enters the room after his nightly camp duties. “I have some bad news,” he reported. “I just talked to the camp staff and they said we only have three spots for riding horses in the morning instead of four.”
Oh baby! Talk about teeing up the ball. I salivated on the inside.
“That’s okay,” I nonchalantly replied. “This one here said he doesn’t want to ride horses anymore.”
Tears welled up in his eyes, “No Mom! I changed my mind!” Bingo. Trapped. Hook line and sinker.
Slinking back to bed, he was undeniably upset. I savored the sweet smell of victory. Surely, I had just driven home the point that “words matter.” That’ll teach him to think about what he says before he says it.
What seemed like a few short hours later, alarms sounded and kids began to stir. Apparently the previous night’s sleep had wiped away some tears because all the kids woke up ready and rearing to go. I had two littles and one big snuggled under blankets for the morning hayride to breakfast. All smiles.
Together we enjoyed piping hot chocolate and cowboy coffee. We ate jumbo sausages, caught french toast on our plates, and watched two guys flip the “world’s largest pancake.”
As the morning festivities drew to a close, my grace-filled ten-year-old sidled up to me and said, “Mommy, can Kelel ride my horse back?”
Whoa. I didn’t see that coming.
“Well, honey, don’t you want to ride it back? After all, he’s enduring the natural consequence of his actions last night.”
“I know, but I really want him to be able to ride the horse. It would make me feel good to be able to do that for him.”
And in that moment, my “stick it to him” attitude came face to face with grace.
I’ve heard it said “mercy” means you don’t get what you deserve, while “grace” is getting what you don’t deserve.
A sister was about to take on her brother’s consequence. Because she loves him, she wanted to take his place. He was about to receive what he didn’t deserve.
As he mounted that horse, I couldn’t help but ponder the profundity of that moment.
I inserted myself into a similar story. One that started in the Garden of Eden. We call it “the fall.”
The natural consequence of my sin nature is separation from a holy God. I want to do things my own way. To be in control. I let words slip out of my mouth that hurt instead of heal. Pride rears its ugly head more often than I’d care to admit.
My very nature tees up the ball as an invitation for natural consequences.
Once again, Jesus takes those natural consequences and turns them on their head.
I ask for mercy. What I get is grace.