All the things you can’t do until you’re four years old….and why that’s mercy

She screamed almost the entire way home from church.

It was a shock to me.  After church ended, my preschooler bounced out of the nursery cheerful and excited, waving to everyone we greeted in the hallway.

But when my daughters climbed all over each other to claim seats in the mini-van for the 12-minute ride home from church—as if they were choosing their positions for a round-the-world tour—my three-year-old hopped in the back seat.

She knew better.  No booster seat until her fourth birthday.  In the meantime, she was restricted to the five-point harness-equipped seats in the middle of the van.  Normally, she just joked, hopping into the back and giggling hysterically until I motioned her to her normal place.

Not that day.  Apparently she decided that enough was enough.  This waiting until her fourth birthday thing was totally overrated.  No ballet classes until she’s four.  No back seat until she’s four.  No three-day-a-week preschool until four.  No Children’s Church until she’s four.

Sheesh.  It’s a hard life being just three years old.047

The thing is, I love her and it’s my job not just to give her what she wants, but to give her what she needs.  Protection, limits, boundaries, rules, bedtimes, baths, healthy meals, love and affection.  That’s my job.  Making sure she’s in the car seat is part of the parental package.

So I made her move seats.  And she screamed herself to sleep on the drive home from church.

Perhaps to her my restrictions were unreasonable, even mean,

Really, though, it was love and it was grace.  It was looking out for her best no matter what.

We don’t always know what grace and mercy really look like either, do we?

We think that promotion, that dream-guy, that check in the mail, that recovery, that hugely successful ministry event, that healthy child—yes, that’s picture perfect grace.  Those actions that don’t fit our Grace Template are the mysteries of God, the painfully chafing rub of disappointed religious expectations.

In The Book of Common Prayer these last two mornings, I prayed:

“Show us your mercy, O Lord”

“And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,
That with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives”

“Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.
Lord, show us your love and mercy;
For we put our trust in you.”

Not only have I prayed for mercy, but I’ve prayed for the awareness of it, the ability to see with a truly thankful heart how God is graciously caring for me.

Even when it doesn’t look much like grace at the time.

Even when I’d rather have the easy and obvious mercy, the kind you pop up out of your pew on testimony Sunday to share, the kind that others applaud and rejoice with you about.

I’ve prayed to see with new eyes, looking through a filter of trust in God.  That means trusting in His character, trusting in His love, trusting in His timing, trusting Him no matter what.titus3-5

The apostle Peter encountered people just like me, those who thought if God wasn’t quick to fulfill His promises, if they had to wait too long or endure too much pain along the way, then God wasn’t fulfilling His end of the “bargain.”

God didn’t move when I thought He would move.  God didn’t provide the way I thought He’d provide.  God didn’t come through for me the way I wanted.

Sometimes we immediately assume the problem is with God.  Maybe He isn’t really good!  Maybe He isn’t really gracious.

That’s what the people in 2 Peter were questioning.  Christ hadn’t returned right away as they expected and life was hard for the persecuted church and waiting was difficult.

Really, though, the problem isn’t with God.  The problem is with our expectations.  The problem is we’ve stopped looking at Him with eyes of trust.

Peter wrote to these struggling believers:

 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent (2 Peter 3:9 NLT).

God wasn’t being delinquent; He was being patient for their own sake.  It wasn’t deficiency, apathy, or cruelty that caused His delay.

It was mercy, to give people time to accept Jesus Christ as Savior.

Sometimes mercy is “yes” and sometimes mercy is “no.”  Sometimes grace is instant and sometimes it’s waiting and waiting and waiting.

But it is always for our sake.  It is because He loves us that God cares for us the way He does.

Originally published 12/3/2012

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

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