Perhaps your children have the same continuum of crying as ours.
On one end of the continuum is fake tears.
Next comes “I’m tired” crying.
Followed by “I think you won’t punish me if I cry” tears.
Then “I’m mad or sad or scared and need you” tears.
And finally “the world is ending and I can’t stop crying” waterworks.
One Tuesday morning, Krista’s tears pegged the last. Our then eight-year-old walked into our bedroom in full-blown, wet-faced panic.
Krista has always loved to read. Her nightstand is invariably covered with books. She also loves to have a glass of water at night. That morning, Krista learned the hard way that books and water don’t mix well.
“Mom, water was spilled on a book.” (I’m regularly struck by how our kids use the passive voice when they make mistakes. It wasn’t that Krista spilled the water; it was that the cup somehow mischievously decided to tip itself over and spill its contents.)
She managed to catch her breath in the midst of her tears. “It’s a library book. I don’t want to tell the school librarian what happened.”
I hugged my weeping daughter. Together we walked to our laundry room, spread the sopping book on towels, and aimed a hair dryer toward its soggy pages. I wasn’t sure that our paper patient would fully recover, but spreading the book over towels seemed to calm my daughter. By the time we jumped in our van and headed to school, Krista was back to her normal self.
Until we pulled into the school’s car line. As Nathan and Jessica grabbed their backpacks and slid out of our van, Krista panicked. “Mom, my stomach hurts. I can’t go to school.” More tears, this time of the “I’m scared and need you” variety.
Allowing Krista to stay in the car, I drove across the street and into the school’s parking lot. Unbuckling my seatbelt and turning to face her in the back seat, I wondered aloud, “Krista, since you didn’t mention your upset stomach until we got to school, perhaps what’s happening is you’re scared about the library book.”
I don’t have a medical degree, but I do know our daughter.
I continued, “Sometimes when I’m nervous about something, my stomach gets upset. Do you think that’s what’s happening?”
Nods from the back seat.
I make so many errors as a parent. I regularly say the wrong thing, or say the right things in the wrong tone of voice. But this was one of those times when the Holy Spirit helped me. I knew exactly what I needed to say to Krista.
It was six words. Six words that I now share with every young person I can. Six words that I hope become a mantra in your family, as they have in ours.
The six words I told Krista are, “Jesus is bigger than any mistake.”
I added, “Krista, if Jesus can’t handle a wet library book, we need a new Jesus. But Jesus can handle that. He can handle everything you feel, and all your mistakes and flaws.”
The same is true in your family.
If Jesus can’t handle your kid’s partying, we need a new Jesus.
If Jesus can’t handle your kid’s rebellion, we need a new Jesus.
But Jesus can handle it. He is our Savior because he can handle our sins and struggles, and so much more.
Mom, Stepmom, or Grandma, please know this: Jesus is bigger than your mistakes too. On those days when you’ve failed to be the mom or grandma you want to be, may this truth about Jesus help you learn from the past but not be imprisoned by it.
How do you try to show children and teenagers that Jesus is bigger than any mistake?