Bucking Horses, Failing Moms, And The Grace Of God

 

Picture this:

A mom puts her little girl on a horse that has already tried to buck her off. She pressures her daughter to do more, and in an instant, her little girl is thrown from the horse's back. Scared and hurting, she sits in a heap in the dirt. The mom checks for broken bones and blood and then callously demands that the girl get up and stop crying. When she will not, the mom gets on the horse and runs him up and down the ring trying to get him to buck with her, all the while yelling profanity at the horse in front of her ten-year-old daughter.

This mom has snapped. Her anger is out of control. The pressure of being that “good mom” and doing all the right things for her children has gotten to her. She finally puts the horse away, throws the saddle on the ground, and locks herself in the tack room of the barn to be alone. She feels ashamed of her actions and can't face her family.

After some time and good conversation with a friend, the mom sees how the Gospel speaks to her situation. She sees her actions as a window to the depths of her heart. She also sees how they are nothing new under the sun. Her God has seen this kind of thing before, in her and in others. She doesn't have to punish herself or try to make things right by working harder. She thanks God for showing her how weak she is. She runs to him and finds forgiveness. She is doused with a scandalous heap of grace.

She goes to her little girl and asks for her forgiveness as well. She tells her how mommy is a great sinner who has a great Savior. She gives her little girl a powerful picture, not of a well-mannered mommy who loves perfectly but of a mommy who needs Jesus and who is loved by Jesus unconditionally.

What if I told you that the mother in this story was me? Does that make you cringe? Have I lost your respect?

That's okay.

Nothing To Prove

You may wonder how I can share this humiliating moment, this private and ugly scene, with the perfect strangers who I hope will read this. The answer is that I have no shame because Christ has covered that day with grace, and that grace has set me free to admit that I am weak.

When Jesus told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9), Paul concluded that no matter what happened, he was not only content to be weak but would even boast in his weaknesses, “so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. . . For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9b–10). And that’s why I don’t mind writing the story about how I lost it with my daughter and the horse. I can boast in my weakness because Jesus is strong. I have nothing to prove because he has proved it all on my behalf.

The Law tells me there is no room for error; it says I must find within myself the strength to be perfect. This is bad news for you and me. None of us will ever be able to be the parent, spouse or friend that the law requires us to be no matter how hard we try.

But the Good News is that Christ met all the requirements of the law on our behalf and poured out his grace upon each of us so we may be 100 percent acceptable before God...even when we fail. No wait, especially when we fail!

Remember Who Loves You

Unlike my sin-polluted love for my children, there is nothing tainted about God’s love for us; because Christ took all the wrath that we deserve upon his back on the cross, God can only love his children perfectly. He doesn’t lecture us, nor does he withhold good things or send us away because he can’t stand the sight of us. No, when we have failed to do what’s right and have sinned against everyone within a mile’s radius, our heavenly Father calls us over, lifts us up into his lap, gently corrects us, and lavishes us with his love. He tells us how much he loves us and how what we just did has been forgiven.

We cry out to him as Father because that is what he is (Romans 8:14-17). Then he sends us on our way—not with a command of “be good and try harder or else I will be angry,” but with tenderness, calling, “Remember who loves you! Remember the one to whom you belong!”

This is an excerpt from my book Christ in the Chaos.