There are a lot of things about my dad’s parenting I would change if I could go back in time. Instead, I take those memories and wring the lessons out of them that I want to be sure to unlearn as I journey through parenthood myself. But, some days I am surprised.
Some days something beautiful surfaces.
I am sixteen and desperately smitten with the guitar player in our Sunday school class. I am also tall and gangly and awfully uncool. And my dad is the Sunday school teacher. Throughout his lesson I am distracted by Mr. Guitar, his crew cut and calloused fingers. I want him to notice me. And all I have going for me is a hidden stash of candy.
I am snacking on it surreptitiously. Mr. Guitar notices. He notices me. And he winks and signals and I understand that I should pass him some. We are sitting in a circle and most of the rest of the class is now watching me too.
Center of secret attention is a role I covet. So, I sneak a piece of juicy, chewy candy out of my pocket and flick it across the circle towards Mr. Guitar. I watch it sail in an arc above our heads. Then I watch it descend.
I watch it descend right onto my father’s head.
The teenagers break into nervous laughter. The lesson stalls and giggles spurt out of the group. My dad stops mid-sentence and looks at me. And he has no idea why we are laughing.
He has no clue that a sugary piece of jellied candy is perched on the very top of his head. He is bewildered. And the class laughs harder. I laugh with them. I laugh into my father’s confused eyes. And I feel horrible.
Finally I reach out and up and into my father’s hair to retrieve the morsel that has so righteously betrayed me.
I don’t remember anything else about the lesson or the morning. All I remember is that my father didn’t say a single thing about it to me. Where I expected an outburst there was only silence and gentleness.
It would be a week before he would broach the topic.
He and my mom sit together across the lunch table from me the following Sunday and he explains the event from his perspective. Across roast chicken and baked potatoes I learn the level of embarrassment my father had felt.
My cheeks burn as he shares with me how painful it was to look to his daughter for help and find only ridicule. To hope for assistance and find only amusement. To wonder why he was the brunt of a private joke and discover his only daughter was the reason.
I had hurt him. I had hurt him.
And his tender, vulnerable explanation of how left me speechless. He had waited a week to talk to me about it because it had taken him that long to try and dislodge the hurt from his heart. And when he brought it to show me, cupped in his strong hands, I saw it for the gift it was
Here was gentleness where I had been callous. Here was careful deliberation where I had been rash. Here was respect where I had been rebellious.
Here was grace.
Twenty years later and that memory still moves me. It’s a snapshot of the parenting I want to deliver to my own children. The deliberate, generous call to obedience as opposed to the easier default to using fear to force it. It’s also the kind of love I want to offer all who are in my life.
Grace is effective because it is so irresistible. Like any good meal. And it nourishes the very bones.
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Jenn L. says
This is sooooo good. Thank you.
Thank you, Lisa-Jo! I too want to serve the meal of grace. Like an irresistibly good meal. And to serve to my children. “The deliberate, generous call to obedience as opposed to the easier default to using fear to force it.” Just like Jesus! Yes, thank you!
For some reason, this post brought tears to my eyes. Not because I can really remember a time I hurt my dad, although I know I have, but because I realize that there are many times I have not extended grace to others. Thank you for a story that reminds me of the grace I have been shown and thus want (not just need) to show to others. I need to remember this even today, when my high school students will surely do something that I’m going to need to remember to serve grace in response.
This is excellent, Lisa. Thank you so much for sharing your heart, and for showing us such a vivid portrait of what that grace through parenting is. (Great picture of you and your Dad, too.)
tammy@if meadows speak says
Lisa-Jo, that brought tears to my eyes! Beautiful.
Adventures In Babywearing says
Oh my, this is powerful. Wow.
Lindsey Nobles says
Oh, this is so, so, so good. Thank you.
Ahhhh…Grace. How lucky you were to learn this from a real, breathing father. I learned it at the feet of Abba. Unfortunately, not all earthly fathers truly KNOW Abba. What a perfectly beautiful story. Lots still do not grasp grace. Thank you for this illustration. It’s one that needs to be heard. There is so much hurt in our world, and all of us need to know of this wellspring of hope. 😀
Kristen@Moms Sharpening Moms says
Oh, Lisa-Jo! An amazing story of grace.
My favorite: “Here was gentleness where I had been callous. Here was careful deliberation where I had been rash. Here was respect where I had been rebellious.”
Quite a lesson for a teenager and something my thick noggin’ still needs to remember! I want to show gentleness, thoughtfulness and respect to my children, too. Thank you for writing this!
deb @talk at the table says
and I love that I see it from all angles with my teens now too.
Wow! So moving! So… perfectly shared. Thanks!
donna o says
Very touching…thanks for sharing this moment. Sometimes it is very hard to share moments when we are not so full of grace. I wonder what moments my children will remember of how I showed them grace, and more than likely, how I did not show it to them :0(.
Dawn @ My Home Sweet Home says
Beautiful post and lesson. Thank you so much for sharing it.
Renae Williford says
How lovely. What a wonderful Father you have!
Amazing grace indeed. It is very difficult to describe what grace is and you did such a lovely job. Your Dad’s action is worthy goal to strive for as parents. I hope your Dad gets to read this!
Lisa-Jo, this post is marvelous.
I laughed with you.
And now I cry.
So good, friend, and what a true title.
wow,I want to be more like that! You have an incredibly wise father.Lucy
Lisa-Jo @ The Gypsy Mama says
@Dee: That is a hard truth – and a good one to raise. And the amazing thing about our Abba Father is how he shines through even the most cracked and broken of our earthly parents. This story is my version of that – because my dad had a notorious temper when we were kids, and the fact that he chose to be gentle on this particular
Lisa-Jo @thegypsymama says
@Bria – I agree, the meal of grace is a hard one to find time to serve between managing busy and often mischievous children. Someone else reminded me today that in this Lenten season, Communion is the ultimate meal where we are served grace. How I aspire to parent like that!
@Beth: you and me both, friend!
@LeAnna: Thank you – I LOVE that picture too. It’s from the last time I was home in South Africa and the first time my father met my second born who was two months at the time. He is two years now. Ouch. Time to go home again soon!
@Tammy @Steph @Lindsey @Cameron – thank you so much for your gracious and encouraging words!
@Kristen – the teenage me was way to thick headed to learn that lesson. It’s taken 20 years for it to finally sink into this thick noggin!
@Deb – Yes, it will certainly be interesting to experience these moments from the other side moving forward!
@Donna – I know – I worry about that too. How my children will remember me is a daily reminder to dial up the grace in all I do!
@Wendy Lu – you know I love you so much for always, always showing up to comment and extend grace to me in all my moments – public and private!
@Amber – Your encouragement means more than you could know (from one lover of words to another).
@Lucy – I want to be more like that too!
Dionna Sanchez says
Oh wow. So convicting and so beautifully written.
This was so beautiful!!!
Oh my!! What a beautiful post!!
I just recently found incourage and I am just feeling so blessed right now.
There wasn’t a lot of grace for me growing up, though as a teenager I really didn’t deserve much.
I try to share grace and mercy with my children each day. There are times I will get mad or upset, but sometimes I choose grace..
PTL for Grace and God’s constant reminder of it…
that was such a good post!
oh Lisa Jo…..so very precious!
What a lesson…..in grace!
Jenn @ Beautiful Calling says
A very costly and priceless lesson. I, too, have similar moments etched my memory where immeasurable grace was extended my way.
Thank you for sharing!
When grace is the meal, not just the prayer before it says
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