Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Humble Pie With a Dollop of Grace

It was a lovely evening.

We sat around my in-laws dining room table and laughed while Corban and Micah filled their plates yet again with turkey, cranberry jelly and mashed potatoes. It was funny because we had just eaten Thanksgiving dinner at my brother's home, not quite an hour before! But they are growing boys, so we just sat back and watched, remembering a time when we could eat whatever we wanted.

The conversation flowed over slices of pie and coffee. It really was enjoyable, but I was feeling quite irritated that I had needed to remind the boys several times to say "Thank you", and "Yes" instead of "Yeah".

They know these things - I've taught them to be polite their whole lives! Are they on politeness overload from this long day of visiting family? I grumbled to myself, wiping the baby's nose and handing her the toy she'd dropped.

"Kevin, would you like pecan or pumpkin pie?" my mother-in-law asked him as he eyed the beautiful pastries on the table. "Or perhaps a slice of both?"

He leaned in closer, licked his lips, and said, "Yeah!"

I couldn't stop it.

"Yes, please!" I hissed.


I clapped my hands over my mouth. My father-in-law did the same, but his eyes were twinkling. My mother-in-law burst into laughter, and my sweet husband winked and smiled at me, putting his hand on my arm in reassurance, instantly extending his loving form of grace.

I felt the blood rush into my face; I'm a terrible blusher. I honestly wanted to sink into a hole and disappear. Or at least to rewind the last 5 minutes.

I'm always extra anxious about behavior and manners when we're at my in-laws' home, but this was a new low for me. I had let my concern about appearances rule my mouth, and in so doing, had disrespected my husband, in front of his parents; in front of his children.

Oh, was there ever a woman more wretched than myself? I wash my mouth out with foot more often than I care to remember. I strive to be everything God wants me to be, and fall so short.

"So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin." (Romans 7:14-25)

I affectionately, and perhaps innapropriately, call this the "doo-doo passage". There are a lot of "do's" there, people. But Paul's struggle mirrors our own, doesn't it? And even though I would love to blame sin for everything and say that it is too powerful to resist, I know that I have been freed from that trap - thank God - through Christ. The sin is mine to claim, and release. No longer does it carry the blame while I skate perilously close to the edge.

The trouble is not with my desires, for they are right and good - being a good mama, an upright disciplinarian, keeping a clean home, cherishing my husband - the trouble is with me.

I will fail.

And when I do, God reaches out his hand, lays it reassuringly on my arm, and gives me a wink and a smile. And I start again. Same desires, same goals, same struggles, even the same outcome more often than not.

437. Forgiveness in the form of Jesus.
438. Grace in the form of my husband.

Would I like some forgiveness, or some grace? Or perhaps a helping of both?

Yes, please.

12 fellow travelers shared:

Christine said...

I've never thought more highly of you than I do at this very moment. You are truly a woman after my own heart. We all fail. We didn't marry perfect spouses, nor are we perfect. His mercies are new each morning! You'll get your next helping tomorrow.

I treasure this post! You are soooo much like me!!


holly said...

Elise! I haven't been over, because I wasn't aware you were back to blogging! I'm so sorry that I didn't know about your father.

I'm so thankful he is okay! What a hard and scary time you all have been through.

Lyn said...

Wonderful post. And I must admit, been there, done that!!!!!

God blessed us with loving husbands, indeed!

tonia said...

oh sweet sister...(((hugs))) to you. You are beautiful.

Rejoice in His forgiveness and the joy of being married to a man with a good sense of humor! (My foot is nearly permanently in my mouth. I am married to an EXTREMELY good-natured man!)

Firefly said...

Oh, how I love you. I can't help but think that God delights in you. Thank you for such a gentle reminder and for the small comfort of a smile across my lips.

Munchkin Land said...

Have you ever considered writing a devotional book? Seriously... I can relate all too often with the "parenting my husband before I think" story. =) It happens to everyone, and as you said, grace is a wonderful thing when extended from loved one.

Kate said...

The same thing happened to us not too long ago. My husband, who is a Captain in the Air Force and is also an instructor for Officer Training School for the AF, spends all day correcting lowly new "recruits" for OTS. He has to correct them on every little thing and has to be really stern and mean. The other day, I was cooking dinner when Aaron came home from work. He asked me if I had been having a good day. I said, "Yes," in a nice, respectful way, as I usually would say. Immediately, he turned around and said, "That's yes, SIR!" As soon as it came out of his mouth, he realized who he was talking to and gasped! He felt horrible! At first, I was sort of taken aback and kind of mad at him! But, he reached out, hugged and kissed me and apologized profusely. Of course, I have done the same type of thing to him many times over--especially at the beginning of our marriage when we were getting used to living with one another. It's just like you said, the Lord extends His gracious hand to us and leads us to repentance when we sin. And His grace is definitely sufficient!

Stitchingmum said...

Elise, whilst I'm not married anymore (and have never been in a Christian marriage), I can relate to your feelings about the 'doo-doo' passage. I think particularly as women and mums e are so driven to show the world that we're doing a good job, and e forget that ultimately we only need to show God that we're working for him. We can't do it without His love and grace and forgiveness, and I know for myself that struggle with doing what I know is right as opposed to what comes naturally goes on 24/7. It is so easy to be tempted to 'feel' what isn't constructive or isn't glorifying Him, and I know I feel I've failed every time I yell at the kids, every time I come close to wishing life was somewhat different, every time I close my eyes and just wish the world would go away, that He would hurry up and show me His plans for me.
Your words have brought me back to what is real, what is truth and important. I get through life with His grace and forgiveness, on HIs strength, not my own. I just have to keep going.

Anonymous said...

Elise, I love this post. And I love the new picture I have of God's extended grace...a kind wink and a smile. Amazing. It fits along with my picture of the Shepherd's mercy in one of my favorite books, Hinds Feet on High Places. After "Much Afraid" stumbled she expected His scorn, but instead He lifted her up, treating her like a queen - I've got to look that up...it was really beautiful how Hurnard described it and ministers to me hugely everytime. Because much of the Christian life is getting back up with confidence and grace after we've fallen (hard to do!) and hopefully receiving God's grace to such an extent that we fall less and less. :)

Annette said...

just wanted to say ... thank you. I needed to read something like this, this morning.

Katherine @ Raising Five said...

We just had an extended visit by in-laws, and I feel your pain! I'll take a generous helping of both, too!

myderbe said...

We call that the do-be-do passage. :) Funny that you have a similar endearing name for it.

And I appreciate your comment. There have been times when I've walked into a very loud, rambunctious living room with my hackles up and ready to lay into everyone for being so noisy, and I'm fussing as I enter the room . . . only to find my husband at the center of it all, wrestling with the children. Ugh. I need to chill. :)

Thanks for your words, beautifully written.

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