Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: Shards

Rowan dropped the sugar bowl yesterday morning about 15 minutes before we left for church. The full-to-the-brim sugar bowl. As he kneeled on the counter to reach for the box of Life, he knocked the covered bowl from the shelf. It bounced off the counter, hit the floor, broke into 9 pieces and spread a swath of sugar halfway across the parquet. Then he burst into tears, because he knew what I was going to say. He knew because I tell him nearly every day: “Don’t kneel on the counters. If you need to get something use the stool or ask me.”

“I’m sorry,” he squeaked, his face scrunched scarlet, tears rolling down his cheeks as I flung open the cabinet to grab the dustpan and broom. “Are you mad?” he asked, as I tossed ceramic shards into the trash and shook sugar granules from the bills strewn across the counter.
“I’m highly irritated, highly irritated,” I muttered, teeth clenched as I brushed the grit from the bottom of one bare foot and then the other over the open trashcan. “Highly, highly irritated.”

Forty-five minutes later I saw in the pew as Pastor Greg preached on Acts 1:1-11, which includes these verses about being God’s witnesses:

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).
I admit, I felt pretty good about myself when I read that verse: “Hey, I’m a blogger; I write every day about God and faith. I write a newspaper column about faith. That’s witnessing, right? I’ve totally got that one covered.”

That is, until Pastor Greg mentioned that our first priority as Christians is to witness to those closest to us. Oikos, he called it, the Greek word for “household evangelism”:
“Witness starts in your smallest circle of family and friends, with the people in your own home and those closest to you. And then it ripples out from there.”

That’s when I remembered the sugar bowl.
Why, I wondered as I sat in the pew with my arms crossed over my chest, am I much more willing to offer grace and forgiveness to acquaintances and even strangers than I am to my own family members – my own children and my husband?

Why is it so easy for me to let a stranger off the hook and not my own child?

What kind of message about love, forgiveness and grace do I send when I don’t willingly accept my child’s sincere apology?

What kind of oikos is that?

What if a co-worker or a neighbor had knocked that sugar bowl onto my counter and strewn sugar across my kitchen floor? Would I have muttered, “Highly irritated, highly irritated,” through clenched teeth while I cleaned up the mess? Would I have ignored her apology? Would I have turned my back when she expressed her sorrow and remorse?
Of course not. “Oh no, no, don’t worry about it, don’t worry about it all,” I would have consoled. “It’s fine. It’s just sugar; it cleans up easily. No problem at all,” I would have said.

I would have handed out the grace card without a second thought, the grace I didn't offer my own child.

Yesterday morning I missed an opportunity to react as Jesus would have. I missed an opportunity to demonstrate love and forgiveness and to teach a lesson with kindness.
Yesterday morning as the sugar bowl lay in fragments and my son cried tears of regret and remorse, I missed the very best opportunity to serve as God’s witness, right in the middle of my own kitchen.
What about you? Are you more willing to grant grace to strangers than you are to those in your inner circle? And if yes, why do you think that's so?

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Shanda Oakley –   – (March 19, 2012 at 12:08 AM)  

I am so with you!  This is what my post was on for On Your Heart Tuesday last week: how we destroy the things we love most. Why is is that it is easier to show compassion outside the home.  It's something I've been convicted of lately.

Lyli@3dLessons4Life  – (March 19, 2012 at 12:16 AM)  

What a powerful message this is! -- Thank you for reminding me that extending grace to others is the best way to present the Gospel.  

Dianna Kennedy –   – (March 19, 2012 at 12:28 AM)  

This probably hits close to home for a number of us. I really try to ask Mary for guidance - for a gentle spirit, especially with our young children.

Big hugs to you, Michelle. 

DevoWriter –   – (March 19, 2012 at 12:37 AM)  

I am enjoying your blog. :) This is my second time here. I can so relate to this post! Though I've been guilty of getting upset when my little girl has broken something, I have to remember those are just things, so I don't esteem the loss of a object more important than the feelings of my girl, who probably feels bad to begin with for breaking something in the first place.  Things are replaceable, but she is one of a kind! I hope she always knows that!

Irene  – (March 19, 2012 at 1:45 AM)  

Hi Michelle. :-) I'm not married and don't have kids yet and I still live with my parents. And I am guilty of granting grace to strangers more than my loved ones. It is so much easier for me to lose my patience with my parents than with other people. And now I feel bad about that. Because they're the people closest to my heart. I'm asking myself right now, "How could I easily get irritated by people who raised me?" Your post is what I needed to hear, Michelle. It made me realize this one important truth. Thank you, thank you so much! Your post has blessed me so much today! God bless you! :-)

Shaunie Friday  – (March 19, 2012 at 2:02 AM)  

Oh Michelle--ouch. Sometimes I get it right, but I'm sure it's much too often that I do not extend the grace I'd give a stranger to my husband and children. I suppose sometimes it's the frustration of knowing how hard you tried to prevent the broken sugar bowl, and how if they'd just listened to you . . . Sometimes it's just plain old irritation at the inconvenience, and the fact that familiarity strips away the constraint to politeness at all cost. Goodness--very chewy meat this one is!!

Hazel Moon –   – (March 19, 2012 at 3:20 AM)  

Oh I had to smile over that story.  Yes, Rpwam did disobey, and certainly his tears of repentance showed that he had learned his lesson.  Honestly in my day with my young children I probably would have done more than just sweep up the broken pieces and speak through gritted teeth.  I was terrible! 

Your pastor did preach a good one didn't he?

kendal  – (March 19, 2012 at 5:00 AM)  

all i can say is, yep. me too.

JosephPote –   – (March 19, 2012 at 6:03 AM)  

I think we all struggle with that, Michelle...and all must guard against demonstrating less grace toward those in our own home than for strangers.
I've come to look at how I react to situations with my family as the truer relfection of my heart condition.  I'm less guarded, more likely to be rushing to get everyone out the door, more likely to be tired and irritable, and more likely to vent frustration.
If my priorities are wrong, it will usually show up first in how I treat people at home...
So, I try to catch myself in those moments and ask the Holy Spirit to change my view of the situation...to help me see it thru His eyes.
...then I sincerely apologize to the family member to whom I failed to offer grace...

Kim –   – (March 19, 2012 at 6:12 AM)  

Sign me up in the "been there" column, Michelle. Thank you for sharing the story as yet another reminder to grant the grace that Jesus gives me so freely to the ones closest to me.

Kimberly Sullivan  – (March 19, 2012 at 6:29 AM)  

Ouch!  We have so much more opportunity to screw things up with our family...Yes, Ann Voskamp wrote recently about being the agent of Grace to our family, about living a life so full of Him that when they think of His love and grace that they think of us, parents.  Ouch again!

Shelly Miller  – (March 19, 2012 at 7:06 AM)  

Well, you got me here Michelle. Pricked my heart because I do this too. And maybe it is easier to extend grace and kindness to someone that I don't know that well because I can't judge them based on the history I have with them. Oh, that is just yucky isn't it? I shouldn't be judging at all.

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 19, 2012 at 8:14 AM)  

Really, really wise and insightful advice, Joe. I did apologize for Rowan and told him I forgave him for kneeling on the counter and breaking the bowl. He asked, "Yeah, but do you really forgive me, or are you just saying that?" Ouch, that kid gets right to the point!

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 19, 2012 at 8:15 AM)  

I remember that post of Ann's too - I am getting this message of grace from every angle lately!

joan taylor –   – (March 19, 2012 at 8:17 AM)  

Well, thank you for the conviction.  I most definitely could have applied far more Grace in a recent conversation with my daughter.  Many times those closest to us don't receive the very best of us.  I too am guilty...

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 19, 2012 at 8:18 AM)  

It's a complicated issue. On the one hand I think love allows us the free reign to let our guard down and truly be ourselves. Part of the reason I would never grumble at an acquaintance or stranger is because I wouldn't want them to think less of me or judge me. Whereas my loved know me inside and out, so I have no reason to hide the less pretty parts of my personality.

Still, that's no reason not to extend grace...

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 19, 2012 at 8:19 AM)  

I think you nailed part of the issue for me: that familiarity strips away the constraint to politeness.

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 19, 2012 at 8:21 AM)  

Oh my goodness Irene, my parents! Another great example of how I extend grace to strangers and then in the next breath lose patience with my own loved ones. Thanks for stopping by today!!

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 19, 2012 at 8:21 AM)  

Such a great point - things are replaceable, but our precious children are one of a kind. And hey, this just gives me a good excuse to buy a cute, new sugar bowl! :)

Thanks for coming by today!

JosephPote –   – (March 19, 2012 at 8:40 AM)  

Ouch!  I think I like Rowan!  He'll keep you honest!  :-)

Gaby  – (March 19, 2012 at 9:03 AM)  

Michelle, this really resonated with me. I have thought and think about this often. I found myself nodding and agreeing at both your point and the fact that I forget often as well.

Megan Willome  – (March 19, 2012 at 9:39 AM)  

I'm still laughing at "highly irritated." And if I were you, I would have been proud I chose those words rather than a few others I could have used.

But your point is well taken. I am finding that with my teenage son, I need to practice this oikos now more than ever. 

JoAnne Potter  – (March 19, 2012 at 10:05 AM)  

Why, oh why, do we lead with judgement rather than grace?  I know both exist perfectly in God, side by side in sublime proportion.  But they don't in me.  I think that it's because judgement puts me in a position of authority and righteousness and grace costs me something and exists only in humility.  Sigh.

Alecia Simersky –   – (March 19, 2012 at 11:14 AM)  

I am soo guilty of doing this. Why is it harder to show grace to friends and strangers than to our own family? I want my kids to see in me the characteristics I want to see in them. I want them to see Jesus in me. I pray daily for gentleness and grace to grow in me. They know and see the real me and I want them to not see a difference in the "me" at home and the "me" in front of others.

Jerri Miller –   – (March 19, 2012 at 11:20 AM)  

I am guilty, too.  I think one reason we feel justified in not offering grace to our children is because we have warned them over and over with no results. Oh, wait ... could it be that Christ feels the same way?

I'm a newbie here and I posted today on your Hear It Use It meme.  I forgot to tell you the first time I linked up!

Karna Converse –   – (March 19, 2012 at 11:34 AM)  

Yep. Been there, many times.  I'd love to know how to pronounce "oikos" so I can use it instead of other words I mumble in times like this.   Is it o-i-kas or o-a-kas? Thanks for the new word.  

Dawn Gonzalez –   – (March 19, 2012 at 11:37 AM)  

 Your kids eat Life. Willingly. Great, now I'm jealous.

messymarriage –   – (March 19, 2012 at 11:45 AM)  

It sounds as if you have a very sweet son who must have learned his humility from his mama on a better day. Yeah, sometimes we forget as mom's to be gracious to those closest to us. But so grateful that God touched your open heart. Beautifully authentic post! :)

Jean Wise  – (March 19, 2012 at 12:02 PM)  

Good lesson for all of us and so true!!  

Lyla Lindquist  – (March 19, 2012 at 12:40 PM)  

Funny how they corner us -- "are you mad?" Of course we're mad. But since they asked, we can't act mad. 

I get what you're saying about how we extend grace more readily to those outside our own households. But I wonder sometimes if that's more politeness than anything else. (And not that there's a darned thing wrong with that.) But when do hold out grace to our family members, and it comes at some cost to us (oh, pride, humility, letting go, you know -- the usual), it's really, really grace in its best and truest form. 

Like, when you went back and talked to him later, offered forgiveness, for real. That's grace to me. The real deal. 

Nancy Franson  – (March 19, 2012 at 1:24 PM)  

 Wish I had the grace to say, "highly irritated," rather than "What on earth is wrong with you?!!!!"

Nancy Franson  – (March 19, 2012 at 1:26 PM)  

Hey! I know a seriously happening blogger named Cheryl Smith whose blog is called "Oikos!"

But, to your point. The good news--and the gospel is always good news--is that you didn't miss your opportunity to bear witness. Every time I have to apologize to my husband or kids about being the cranky person that I tend to be, I bear witness to my belief that grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation are real things, offered by Christ, and attainable.

Laurie Collett –   – (March 19, 2012 at 1:27 PM)  

Thank you for this convicting post. You're right -- grace should begin at home, but I am so much less patient with my family than with others.
Love in Him,
Laurie Collett


Sandra Heska King  – (March 19, 2012 at 5:00 PM)  

What irritates me is that I know I have the ability to extend grace to those closest to me; therefore, I must just not want to.

No, wait. I'm offering an opportunity to them to learn to extend grace. Yeah, that's it. 

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 19, 2012 at 8:00 PM)  

Of course my kids know me well enough to know that when I used the the phrase "highly irritated," things ain't lookin' good for them! And when I repeat it over and over? You better hit the high road!

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 19, 2012 at 8:01 PM)  

I've also been known to  a worse turn of phrase or two!

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 19, 2012 at 8:02 PM)  

Yay, yay, yay - I'm looking forward to reading your post - - thanks for coming by, Jerri.

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 19, 2012 at 8:02 PM)  

I should have been more specific: Cinnamon Life.

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 19, 2012 at 8:03 PM)  

I think my pastor pronounced it "o-koes" - but who knows if that is right?

OutnumberedMom –   – (March 19, 2012 at 8:55 PM)  

So...I'm NOT the only mom who does this? I have learned, though, that a heartfelt apology ("Mom messed up...") goes a long way.

Emily Wierenga –   – (March 19, 2012 at 10:23 PM)  

oh friend. i know. i do this too. i think it's because we know our family members will never leave us... even if we're honest with them. :) love you.

Linda Chontos –   – (March 19, 2012 at 10:42 PM)  

I was just thinking along similar lines last evening. I was trying to list my strengths and I listed words others have said about me. Then I began to wonder if my own family would use those same words. So convicting. 

Lisa notes  – (March 20, 2012 at 10:24 AM)  

Household evangelism. What a great way to put it. That's often the hardest.

I have plenty of my own sugar bowl experiences. Lord, have mercy on us mamas...

Alyssa Santos  – (March 20, 2012 at 12:53 PM)  

So convicting my friend. I need to write oikos on a card to remind me. I didn't realize there was a greek word for "charity begins at home" -- to evangelize with our actions to those in our closest circle. thank you!

Laura Boggess  – (March 20, 2012 at 5:32 PM)  

And here I was thinking what remarkable restraint you showed. :). Oikos. Yes...that's the name of Cheryl Smith's new blog so I've read some about it over at her place. But it keeps coming back. Maybe trying to tell this woman something...

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 20, 2012 at 9:41 PM)  

I know, exactly! Whenever the kids ask, "Are you mad?" I feel so guilty for being mad that I try to pretend that I'm not mad.

I think you're right about the politeness factor playing into our interactions with strangers or acquaintances. Grace with loved ones, those who really know us inside and out, you are right - that's true grace.

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 20, 2012 at 9:42 PM)  

I know Cheryl - I forgot that her "new" blog is called Oikos - I will have to pop back over there. How cool is that?

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 20, 2012 at 9:42 PM)  

We have that in common, Laurie. Grateful to you for letting me know that I'm not alone!

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 20, 2012 at 9:43 PM)  

Sometimes I do intentionally hold onto my grace, selfishly. Those are not good moments at all...

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 20, 2012 at 9:43 PM)  

Yup. I've gotten pretty good at the apology.

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 20, 2012 at 9:43 PM)  

Love you, too, flawed and fabulous friend!

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 20, 2012 at 9:44 PM)  

Ooooooh, really good question, Linda. That makes me grimace just thinking about it!

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 20, 2012 at 9:45 PM)  

That's a prayer I need to repeat daily (hourly?) - Lord have mercy on this mama!

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 20, 2012 at 9:46 PM)  

I know, isn't that cool? What a good idea to write it onto a card. I think I need to carry it with me in my back pocket at all times (or tape it onto the kitchen cabinet, better yet).

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 20, 2012 at 9:47 PM)  

Ha! It WAS restrained, for me. But I was still steaming mad inside, and he knew it. Oh mothering...has there ever been a harder job?

I'm going to pop over to Cheryl Smith's place right now...I think I need me some more oikos.

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 20, 2012 at 9:48 PM)  

That's what apologies are for, I guess -- I make liberal use of them around here!

Michelle DeRusha  – (March 20, 2012 at 9:49 PM)  

Glad it resonated with you, Gaby. Love to you, friend!

Connie@raise your eyes  – (March 21, 2012 at 8:23 AM)  

Oh the pain as I've heard the truth of this in my own heart: if it were a guest--a stranger even--what would my response have been? Thank YOU LORD for cutting into our layers to expose Truth.

Paula  – (March 21, 2012 at 12:24 PM)  

I love this :) And it is so very true ... it's hard to be gracious, forgiving, often in the smallest moments, and often with our closest loved ones. Thank you for posting this for us :) and I'd love to have you join my blog hop if you'd like to join.
Paula at Welcoming Spirit

ELM @ A Family Treehouse  – (March 21, 2012 at 2:50 PM)  

As I read your encounter with Rowan, I heard my "Bud" munching noisily away on a too toasty piece of toast. I gave him the ol' "Please turn on the radio as you munch, my little bovine" through clenched teeth. I was trying to not be irritated, but food/mouth noises rank up in the irritated, highly irritated range for me... especially when they are mindless not thinking, could close my mouth and be more polite variety. So, I continued to read - oh, crud. Wish I would have read further before the munching began. A little irony in the timing - learning a little oikos, too.

cherylsmith  – (March 21, 2012 at 3:47 PM)  

Oh Honey, I think we all need more Oikos! 

This is the place where God is really, really pruning my heart. It's painful at times, but then pruning doesn't sound like fun and games now, does it? 

Holy Spirit, fill us!

cherylsmith  – (March 21, 2012 at 3:50 PM)  

Nancy, you're right about that forgiveness piece, and grace. I think of my own parents who often made mistakes but seldom, if ever, said they were sorry and asked for forgiveness. I'm believing God is doing something in me, and in our children, each time I say the words Fonzie could never say. (Or is it Fonzy?)

Branson  – (March 24, 2012 at 8:44 AM)  

Household evangelism is something that has been coming up a lot in my life lately! Definitely easy to let that attitude of grace slip around the people you love most. This is an excellent reminder!

I tried to link up a couple times, but linky tools isn't working :( Here is my post, though: http://myreflectionofsomething.org/lifes-latest-lesson-seasonal-friendship/

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