I don’t claim to be an expert in the potty training of little boys, but I have been involved in a few rounds of this process.
If you’ve never done so, I need you to… well, let’s just call it imagine.
A young parent has this bouncing, rough-and-tumble little tyke that they really feel like is old enough to begin the process. They start at bath time or when changing clothes and such by just placing the little guy on the throne.
You veterans know what is going to happen here.
The mommy says, “Come on, go potty in the big potty for mommy!”
And, despite evidence to the contrary in many ways, the little dude really does want to make mommy happy. He grunts a little—making a genuine effort, mind you. And then mommy sees the pale yellow stream and is stricken with the horrible realization that there is a trajectory problem here. He’s doing what was asked in a heart of joyful obedience.
But he’s peeing right through the gap under the toilet seat.
It’s not a criminal offense. It’s not even a misdemeanor. It was an act of obedience. But it’s a smelly mess.
And there he sits with a great big smile on his face because he did it—he went potty in the big potty for mommy!
And what does mommy do?
That depends on what she’s focused upon in that moment. Is it the boy or the mess that comes with having a little boy?
In our best parenting moments, we know that the right thing is to do what we do every time (in the very beginning of the process) that the little one does the business in the appropriate place. We celebrate. We say, “Yes! You did it! Woohoo!” We high five and fist bump and dance around and, though grossly disproportionate to the actual occurrence, we do everything we can to affirm and reinforce the behavior.
But we still have to clean up the mess.
This picture sprang into my head this morning as I was reading about the matters of end times theology. As I was reflecting on the judgment to which we all must submit, I was thinking about how great and gracious our God is and how He looks at the heart within us even though we made a mess of things.
And I realize that, though I have made so very many messes even out of good intentions, every desire within me to obey and please Him is something He will reward. And the craziest part of it is that He will reward me for doing what I could not possibly do unless He was at work in me by His Spirit.
“For it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2.13)
So very many times I’ve been like the little tyke who would go hide somewhere and make a mess in his pants instead of doing what he knows mommy wants him to do. I’ve been forgiven for every one of them.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103.12)
But in every one of those moments when I have leaned into His guidance and tried to obey and still made a mess… He’s still cheering me on, unconcerned with the mess He already knew I was going to make.
And that, my friends, is grace.
He gives it—not because of who I am or what I’ve done—just because of who HE is.
“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1.16)