Catholic Spirituality,  Evangelization,  motherhood,  Parenting,  Suffering,  toddlers

Mercy for me, mercy for you

Let’s eat mercy in a big brown shoe…

(sorry, there’s a whole section of my brain programmed with song lyrics from the 90’s)

Today’s a snow day here in Denver. (Which means something quiiiiiite different once you’re on the other side of the school bus, turns out. But I digress.) My boys have been pawing at the backdoor since breakfast, and we finally released them into the 14 inches of fluff coating the back deck. At almost 4 and 5.5 years old, they’re finally at the point where they stay outside longer than it takes me to suit them up in their cold weather gear. Which is awesome.

The 2 year old wants to join them. Of course she does. She’s been up whining and throwing dramatic tantrums and falling gracefully face first onto the carpet since about 7 am. She doesn’t feel great, we can tell, but she’s determined that she’ll have the same fun her brothers are having.

After 20 minutes of plaintive whimpering at the back door and many more dramatic faux fainting spells, we concede the point, stuffing pajama clad legs sausage-style into hand me down black snowveralls, size 3T. They’re too big, but she’s delirious with joy. I wrestle tiny boots onto footie pajama feet, telling her we’re almost ready. She fights me like an adult catfish, writhing in anticipation of the wintery freedom that awaits her out the back door.

Finally, she’s suited up and released into the wild. She toddles into a drift that is above her waist and promptly face plants. Crying, she raises her arms for a daddy rescue. And off again, toddling to the edge of the deck and crouching down to roll into a waiting drift (only a 12 inch drop, fear not). I watch from behind the picture window in the warm, waiting house, counting down the minutes until she surrenders. She’s been out the door for 90 seconds so far and one mitten is gone.

At the 6 minute mark I look up and see her appear at the backdoor in Daddy’s arms, kicking and screaming. She has clumps of snow in her hair and stuffed up the legs of her pants, encrusted along the tops of her boots. He grins and shrugs, handing her off for a warm bath before disappearing back into the tundra.

I ask my now sobbing 2 year old if she’s ready to warm up and she shoots me a look of unadulterated rage. I peel her out of 17 layers of snow gear, shedding clumps of ice all over the family room floor, and carry her to the waiting tub. Once the water starts running she has a whole new list of demands including “fishy,” “dirty dogs,” “Princess Leia,” and “cockadoodle.” We have a weird bath culture in our home.

As the tub fills she relaxes, finally happy after a morning of high drama delivered the way only a 2 year old can – continuously. She’s laughing and singing about Star Wars, and I’m laughing to myself because she’

And she’s just like me.

There are so many times I’ve been like “God, this is what I want and THIS IS HOW I WANT IT.” And I’ve pushed and pleaded and begged and insisted until, finally, I get what I want, and the consequences be damned.

And it’s the craziest thing, but they usually are.

And I’m not always keen to admit it, but there have been moments of grace-filled hindsight where, after He’s picked me up and brushed me off and shown me to the warm bath, I can see that while He uses all things for good for those who love Him…there are definite areas where I demanded not thy will but mine be done. And it shows.

Because usually? It’s so much more painful. So much less fulfilling. So much more likely to end in regret and remorse and potential injury.

And of course He is always there to pick me up, to brush off the snow, to welcome me back into the warm house and draw a bubble bath, allowing the steam and the soap to coax feeling back into my numbed and reddened skin. But it still hurts. Sometimes healing does. Maybe even often.

I think that’s what the Year of Mercy is about, at it’s heart: God the Father standing at the door, waiting for us to come back inside so we can be wrapped in His welcoming bath towel of healing and reconciliation.

(I mean, it’s an imperfect analogy.)

So He waits. Standing patiently in front of us, watching us flounder in deep snow, shedding mittens and exposing delicate parts of ourselves to the sting of frostbite and the punishing elements. And He won’t force us to come back inside, because free will. But He’s gonna rip that door open and catch us the second we come running back, pulling off those wet layers of sin and regret and washing us clean. And while there might be a little pain involved, the pain is not the point. It’s just the natural consequence of the rehab He’s doing on our little frozen extremities.

And because He’s God, He probably won’t even roll His eyes while picking up our pile of frozen laundry, muttering something about how He warned us we would get too cold out there and that we should have just stayed inside.

(Note to self: work on that part. ^)

And that, my friends, is how the Jubilee Year of Mercy is a little like waiting for toddlers to come in from the snow.

cross snow


  • Rhonda

    I know this isn’t the point, but if I could offer an unsolicited suggestion: duct tape the cuffs to the mittens and pant legs to the boots before she heads out the door. It might buy her/you a few extra minutes outside.

  • Jordan

    This is a beautiful perspective. Isn’t it funny that we can’t grow up until we have children? And the real gift is that all “growing up” really means is to understand that we are always His kids. I’ll be a first-time mommy this summer, and I can’t wait to see what God has to tell me. This post does a good job of portraying God the Father as a good-humored, loving dad, allowing our tantrums and demands because it is an opportunity for His love to be more evident. We may not learn our lesson the first or fifth or seven-hundredth time, and that’s not really the point anyway. Our faith tells us that He is the ever-present, ever-waiting source of love, and that the only way to deny Him is to deny rescue. But where is the fun of rescue if the children never wander?

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