I used to judge people with small children pretty harshly.
Their children ruined my dinner, made my flights miserable, woke me up, and made for poor house guests. Why don’t they do something with those kids? I wondered with contempt.
As if they weren’t trying.
Now, with two toddlers, my wife and I are “those people,” and I’m eating my words, my thoughts, and judgments. I’m also realizing that it was a lot easier being a parent when I didn’t have kids.
This past Thanksgiving, my wife, two toddlers, and I made a 13-hour road trip to visit my family. We figured that if we could just make it there, everything else would be a piece of cake. Wrong.
I don’t know if it was the time zone change, staying in a different house or what, but during that week, neither of my daughters slept well.
God bless my mom and step-dad, who didn’t complain about it, but I know it had to be annoying when my youngest daughter woke up crying at 4:50 two different mornings. And God bless all 20 people in the house on Thanksgiving night who did their best to accommodate my request to speak in quiet voices so the girls would go to sleep.
When I asked my nieces and nephews to play with the girls, they gladly obliged every time. When my wife and I didn’t hear our daughter wake up one morning because the monitor was on the wrong channel, my mom and step-dad got up at 5:30 and played with her until we got out of bed. And there’s no telling how many meltdowns were averted simply because my sister-in-law carried the girls around so much.
That’s the gracious attitude I wish I’d had towards parents back in the day.
It was humbling to have once been so judgmental and to now be the one in need of grace. With that thought in mind, after I got home from Thanksgiving, it occurred to me that whether I realize it or not, people have always had to be gracious to me.
God knows how many times I’ve overstayed my welcome, spoken too soon, talked too long, or listened too little. In 34 years, I’ve hurt countless people’s feelings, given tons of bad advice, insulted a few people’s kids, damaged other people’s property, and borrowed things without remembering to return them.
Some people have been kind enough to call me out, but I’ll never know how many others chose to quietly forgive me. As the old Proverb says, it was to their glory to overlook my offenses (Prov. 19:11). And it was to their glory because in doing so, they were imitating Christ, who has overlooked more of my offenses than anyone else.
So to all of you who took a deep breath and moved on, to those who gave me the benefit of the doubt – if you prayed for me more than you talked about me . . . thank you. I mean it, even though I don’t remember it. I pray that I’ll extend that kind of grace to others when they need it as badly as I still do.