Often, in my dealings with the children, I feel I gain some insight into how I might approach God. I mention this because a recent incident with Middle Child (who's name will be withheld) helped me to see a sure and certain path to God's mercy.
Middle Child has it hard sometimes. When he plays with Big Boys, what he considers play... they often consider annoying. When he plays with Little Boys, what he considers play... they often consider bullying. It isn't always hard. It seems to come in waves. A long time will pass without incident and then, suddenly, we can't get through a few hours without a crisis of this sort.
The early part of this week brought an unusually heavy onslaught of such trials for Middle Child. When he was playing with Big Boys, he was constantly screaming in frustration. When he was playing with Little Boys, they were constantly screaming in frustration. It seems screaming is the solution of choice when no solution can be found. Well, I had had quite enough of the screaming. As I tucked him into bed after a particularly bad day, I talked to Middle Child about finding other ways of dealing with his frustrations with the Big Boys and about how he could avoid causing the same frustrations in the Little Boys. He promised to do better the next day.
But the trouble started early the next morning. The first I heard of Middle Child was a frustrated scream. I called him to me and reminded him of his promise to do better. He remembered his promise and seemed sincere in wanting to do better, but within minutes, Little Boys were screaming about Middle Child. I called him back and reminded him again, how he must be considerate to the Little Boys. He remembered again --and promised again, to try harder. The third time it was Middle Child, himself, screaming yet again.
The moment I called his name, he burst into the most desperate sounding sobs. He walked slowly towards me turning his fists in his eyes.
"It's not easy. It's not easy," he managed to cry out between the heaving sobs and sighs.
"What is not easy, Middle Child?" I asked.
"Being good," he choked, "I want to be good, but I keep being bad." He took his hands from his eyes, opened them towards me pleadingly, and asked with a crackling voice, "Why do I keep being bad?" It shot me through the heart and melted me completely. I sat on the ground, took him on my lap and just held him a while.
Then, when he seemed consoled, I explained that it isn't easy for any of us. It is hard to be good and we don't always succeed. I told him what matters most is that no matter how often or how badly we fail, we must always be sorry and we must always keep trying.
"That is what I will do." He pronounced firmly and went off to try again. As I watched him go I thought to myself how charming and endearing Middle Child had been at this moment of his failure and I could see how the words of the Psalmist must be true, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A humble and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise (Psalm 51:17)." After all, who could despise such a heart?
I pray that I might have such pure and honest contrition before God for all my failures and such firm resolve for amendment. Always.