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On Goldfish and God's Grace

goldfish pouring from spilled cup

** I am HONORED to feature a guest blog from my very dear friend, Kaitland Taflinger! I have walked with Kaitland for over 20 years now, and I am astounded by the depth, beauty, humility, hunger, and compassion that flows from every fiber of her being. A wildly gifted communicator and creator, she is also the designer of my website. Kaitland and her husband Cody are ardent ambassadors for foster care, mom and dad to a precious 2 year old son, and voices that are NEEDED in the Kingdom of God. I just know you're going to LOVE her as much as we do! - Chuck


My son has a delightful new way of communicating with us. At two years old, he has plenty of words in his arsenal, including “No thank you”, “All done”, “More please”, “Uh uh” and quite a few others as he begins to learn the art of stringing sounds together. We grew so excited when he unlocked the ability to tell us what he doesn’t want while we anxiously await the day he can tell us what he does. No more tantrums, right? He’ll just politely decline. Ha!


While he has learned to take deep breaths and count to six to calm down, it takes time to build that habit when you’re two. It’s easy to reject something politely when you’re calm, but recently we’ve noticed a new reaction creep in. 


Panic. 


Picture this. You just wake up from your afternoon nap and you are hungry, thirsty, full of energy, but also still cranky.


“Mom, ‘nack p’ease,” you say, tilting your head and batting the eyelashes of your big brown eyes. You know she can’t resist. Only 5 seconds in, you have Mom hooked and she’s off to make your snack. You really want veggie straws, but when she comes back and hands you your snack cup, what’s in it? Goldfish. 


What do you do? You can’t say “veggie straws” yet, she’s walking back to what she was doing, and suddenly you feel an overwhelming urge rising from within. There’s only one thing to do. You freeze as the panic makes its way across your face and takes over. With a grimace, your hand starts moving before you can stop it… and dump your snack all over the floor. 


Uh oh. Mom turns around and you already know what’s going to happen. With panic still written across every fiber of your being, you grunt and growl and try to let her know you’re not okay. What will she say? Will you have to go to timeout? Will you have to clean it up? What if… what if it’s both?


Instead, Mom kneels down and takes your hand. She takes your snack cup and puts it on the ground. 


“You made a mess. It’s okay. You have to clean it up but I will help you if you want me to. Next time, let’s use our words.”


And help she does. Together you clean up the mess and identify what you needed all along. Now you’re playing with your toys with veggies straws and a smile. End scene. 


This a true story that happened recently except it was at a friend’s house and it was well after nap time so little man was actually in a great mood. He just had a moment of panic when he couldn’t communicate that he wasn’t happy with the snack I gave him. 


Part of me was frustrated and wanted to do the easy thing and clean it up myself with a warning not to do it again, but I knew he needed to learn. I began to tell him he had to clean it up by himself as a consequence, but as I looked at his little, panicked face my heart was convicted. 


“Buddy, we will clean it up together but you have to help.” As I knelt on that floor picking up goldfish one by one, the Lord pressed on my heart, “This is what I do for you. You may have to clean up the mess but I will be there to help you do it”.


In 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 Paul says “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to relieve me of this. But he answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you,  and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.”


Reflecting on the events of that night, I think of many moments when I beseeched the Lord in prayer, only to find myself panicked at his response, pushing away the very thing I had been seeking from him. Just last year I found myself in a state of panic, dumping out my proverbial goldfish and finding them shattered in pieces on the ground. Watching what I had prayed for crumble at the doing of my own hand overtook me with devastation, fear, and shame. For many months the Lord continued to offer his hand if I would commit to helping clean up the mess. It was quite some time before I finally took it. We’re still cleaning up the aftermath.


As a mom, I have come to realize that I cannot keep my son from suffering. It is not possible for me to remove all sorrow, all consequence, or any sense of burden from him. It would also not be good for him if I did. Suffering is an unavoidable part of life, but its lasting impression is cut sharply by the healing power of grace.


In 1 Peter 5:10, the Bible states: “And then, after your brief suffering, the God of all loving grace, who has called you to share in his eternal glory in Christ,  will personally and powerfully restore you and make you stronger than ever. Yes, he will set you firmly in place and build you up.”


In the moment after he rejected my answer to his request and my son stood surrounded by goldfish, waiting tearfully for me to make a move, I was presented with the opportunity to cut his suffering gently with grace. So I knelt on the floor as the Lord so graciously does with us and began the work of restoring my son’s heart to joy and building him up in strength and dignity.


I’m no perfect parent and have missed as many opportunities to show grace as I’ve shown it, but have seen the evidence of grace invading my life the more that I accept it for myself. We become what we believe we are, we act as worthy as we see ourselves. Since the Lord began to show himself to me as the gentle corrector filled with grace, I have started looking for his hand when the tides begin to rise within.


I invite you to reflect on two areas in your life that you can take immediate action on - your acceptance of grace and your offering of it. Ask yourself these questions and sit quietly before the Lord as he begins to reveal the answers. If what you find is a mess before you, don't panic. Your Father is drawing near to clean it up...together.


Reflection Questions:


Where is the Lord offering grace that I have not accepted?


Where do I have an opportunity to show grace that I have not offered it?

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