As I write this (September of '09) I have a three year old daughter and a two year old son. And I have decided that people with children around two years of age are in an exclusive club. I'm working on a catchy name for it, but for the time being, let's just call it the "I'm at my wits end what on earth am I going to do with this child?" club. If you have kids that are older now, you've already gratefully turned in that membership. If you aren't a member yet, this can serve as a warning. And, perhaps, birth control.
My son has tantrums. Not just run-of-the-mill tantrums, either. If his tantrums were storms, they would be F5 hurricanes. They aren't just kicking and screaming. They're forces of nature. And since scolding him does no good, and ignoring them means I'm going to be in that same geographical location for a good 30 minutes or so, I decided to try something that my mother did with us (she claims). I love him through it.
And what do you know, it works. I can tell when the tantrum is coming. Just like in nature, there are signs. So before the low grumblings can progress to gale force screaming winds, I love him through it. I put him on my lap, snuggle him tight, tickle him, and laughingly tell him, "You can't stop this love train! Can't stop this love train! I love you no matter what you do!" And he usually comes right around. Who can resist that kind of love?
Peter couldn't. A passage that brings me a lot of comfort is Luke 22:31-32. Let me paint the picture for you before you read it. Jesus and His disciples are sitting in the upstairs room. Jesus has already washed their feet. He tells them that He loves them just as the father loves Him. (John 15:9) He tells them to love one another just as He loves them (John 15:12). They have shared the wine and the bread...the first "communion" ever taken. They are quietly talking. And Jesus turns to Peter (then called Simon), and says "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to have all of you, to sift you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen and build up your brothers."
I want you to notice something. It says "So when you have repented and turned to me again....." WHEN. Jesus knew Peter (Simon) was going to sin. He knew it. And He wanted Peter to KNOW that He knew it. And He wanted Peter to know that He loved him, and to turn back to Him.
It's taken me a long time to forgive myself for some of the things I've done. A looooooong time. And to this day, I am so much quicker to forgive others than I am myself. But here is another truth, and it's one you need to write on your heart. Just as we are commanded to forgive each other, so we are commanded to forgive ourselves. If God Himself can forgive our sins, who are we to withhold that same grace from ourselves? 1 John 1:9, "But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from every wrong." But you don't know what I've done, you don't know how many times...you don't know... It doesn't matter. He cleanses us from EVERY wrong. No matter how unworthy of love you think you are...you aren't. You are loved. Precious and holy in His sight.
Let's read a little further in the scriptures. And again...let me paint the picture. Peter has denied his Lord three times. He was one of the 12, one of the chosen to walk with Jesus, and three times he denied even knowing him.
On the morning of the third day, the women go to Jesus' tomb. And the stone is rolled away. Mark 16 tells us that the angels told them not to be afraid, but to go tell and tell the disciples that Jesus is alive. But look at this, Mark 16:7....the angel says "Now go and give this message to His disciples, including Peter: Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see Him there, just as He told you before He died." Including Peter. The angel gave them special instructions to tell Peter. Jesus knew that Peter would sin. Just like He knew I would. Just like He knows I will. And He loves me anyway. Just like He loves you.
Later on, Peter became one of the strongest evangelists in recorded history, writing two of the books in the new testament, preaching of great love and forgiveness, and converting thousands to Christianity. And you know what? Jesus knew this too. Matthew 16:18, "Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it."
I think about that, and I ask myself, what will I do....with the grace I've received?
There is nothing that my two year old son, or my 3 year old daughter could do that could make me stop loving them. No tantrum so great that I can't forgive it. And nothing melts my heart faster than my child coming to me, with a tear-stained face, whispering, "Mommy...I'm sorry. I love you." How much more love, how much more mercy, how much more grace will our Heavenly Father pour out on us? Nope. Can't stop this love train.