I go to church on Sundays now. I go because I feel God there and I promise I mean it when I tell you that it’s the last place I thought I’d find God. I’ve looked there before and came back pretty empty. I’m not sure what’s different now except that I’m sure I am. I’m all the way different.
Last Sunday, I was sitting at the same spot on the same pew I’ve been sitting the dozen or so times I’ve been there. There was a young Daddy sitting at the front by the aisle, next to his little boy. The boy was probably around five but very small, glasses, toe-headed. He had this little ball in his left hand, it seemed to be a light ball like maybe a wiffle ball, and when he wasn’t rocking back and forth in his seat, he was ever so slightly bouncing that ball in the cup of his hand. The ball seemed to just hover there. And because a ball can’t defy gravity for too long, every few minutes, it would miss its landing and roll out into the aisle. In the length of the Sunday sermon, that ball rolled out into aisle no less than twenty times. Every single time it did, I watched the Dad get up, gently pass through the small space between his boy’s little legs and the back of the next pew, pick up that ball and place it back in his son’s hand. No impatient body language, no visible release of air from his lungs that would indicate a sigh, no head hanging in defeat, he just retrieved that ball, all twenty times. This scene destroyed me.
I flashed back to the years my son was that age, as he exhibited much the same behaviors as that little boy, and how slim my patience was with him. I thought of how many times he’d drop a ball but it would always end with him screaming in frustration because he was most likely reflecting my frustration. I know we’ve all done the best we could with what we knew, but as I sat there unable to stop the tears, I wished I could go back. I wanted a do-over.
So I’m back in church to remember that I’m already forgiven. I am given grace, even when I didn’t ask for it, even when I don’t expect to receive it, especially when I don’t think I deserve it. I’ve heard the term ‘unconditional love’ so many times but how many times have I stopped to think what that really means: love with no conditions, no strings, not a transactional exchange but like a one-way street, like water bursting from a hose. I am hosed down with so much grace that I get to love on my boy today. I get to gently guide him, help him retrieve the balls he continues to drop and despite my frustrations that still surface because I am far from perfect, grace has given me another chance.
Like I said, I’m all the way different now.