Yesterday, Holly and I were set to enjoy some ‘catch up’ time on my screened in porch. Our kids were gearing up for a game of capture the flag and what better way to extend a summer send off than outside time with special friends.
Before we could nestle into ‘how are you doing?, her daughter came in a said frantically, “A boy is screaming for help outside!” We looked at each other dubiously, both thinking this was a joke. When we stepped onto the front porch, we didn’t hear anything.
Then, it rang out. “Somebody HELP me!!!”
Shielded behind our big tree, a young man laid in my neighbor’s yard. With his bike strewn onto the concrete, he rolled from side to side in the grass clutching his foot. I did not recognize him though many kids use our cul-de-sac as a dead-end to cruise around on various wheeled contraptions.
We ran over to him and it was not long until his friend and sister, also on bikes, joined us. The boy did not want to be touched or helped; his toe had a nasty cut and was bleeding. In absolute hysterics, he screamed that he could not feel his leg.
The sister called her mom and then handed me the phone as if it were the final round of hot potato.
It did not take long for it to register where this boys pain was truly coming from. He was terrified, because he had disobeyed his mom. He was biking without shoes and had not stayed in his own neighborhood.
There I was caught between a scared little boy and a very angry mother with nothing between us but an iphone.
I told her my name and explained the situation.
“Where are you, anyway! What is he doing there!!?” she fumed. As if I had been the destination.
I laughed internally at the uncomfortable situation I found myself in while telling her how to get to my house. I then explained calmly how all of the neighborhood streets were connected like an anthill and it would be easy for her kids to find their way here without using main roads. She hung up.
While waiting, we offered the boy some water. He had yet to make eye contact with us so we settled on making small talk with his sister. She told us that they had just moved to the city two weeks ago. More data.
The phone rang again and the boy was given the phone. Still laying on the ground, he said repeatedly and frantically, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” He was hurt but mostly he was in deep trouble. In exasperation he stuck the phone back in my hand while his mom was in mid-sentence.
“Hi. It’s me again,” I said.
“Is this (insert her daughter’s name)!!!???”
“No,” I said calmly. “This is the woman who found your son.”
I do not know what it was about that sentence, but it brought sanity to the situation. Somehow it finally got quiet.
“Listen,” she said. “They were not supposed to leave the neighborhood, and I told them to wear shoes. They completely disobeyed me. We just moved here.”
“I understand,” I said. “That is very frustrating when kids do that.”
“What is wrong with him anyway!?” she asked.
I walked away to get some privacy. “Well, he’s cut up his big toe pretty bad. He won’t let me clean it. He also says that he cannot feel his leg. I don’t see any bruising or swelling. Honestly, I think he is just terribly afraid and in shock.”
She was quiet.
She told me that she was close and would be there in minutes. I hung up the phone and walked back to the boy. What a pickle he was in. He was caught between her anger, which frankly was merited in part, and his own fear at being caught in disobedience.
Two weeks ago, my husband and I were listening to a program hosted by Michael Horton on our drive to the beach. I was half asleep, literally curled up in the seat with my pillow and my exhaustion, when I heard Michael Horton say, “The hellishness of hell is not the absence of God. It is the presence of God without a mediator.”
That woke me up. Instantly. I sat up and wrote down the quote, and it has lingered with me ever since. Being on the receiving end of someone’s wrath is a horrible thing, especially when you are defenseless. I thought of this as I watched a little boy squirm and writhe not from the pain of a bike injury, but from the reckoning that was to come.
When the mom pulled up, he was already saying that he was sorry. Over and over again. She brought some first aid but quickly saw these were not band-aid wounds. She sat before him at the crossroads of her own anger and her son’s pain. I wondered which direction she would choose.
Which direction will I choose the next time my child’s foolishness reaps such consequences?
She helped him up and he apologized again. She finally took a deep breath and said, “You don’t need to apologize anymore.” Her voice had gentled and she had found compassion. “This is just a consequence of a bad decision, and I hope you will learn from it. Let’s go get you taken care of for now.”
She chose mercy, at least for the moment in front of us. She braced up her son as he hobbled to the car. As they drove away, I thought how hard it is to extend mercy when you are in the right. What mom is not angered and exasperated by a child’s willful disobedience? I equally know the temptation for retribution and “I told you so’s.” But the truth is, neither are hardly helpful.
When I heard the Michael Horton quote two weeks ago, I knew it was important. I knew then that I wanted to put it on Facebook or blog about it, but had yet to have the gumption or the time. And quite frankly, I lacked the words to describe what it stirred up inside of me.
Now I have a picture of the beauty of a mediator. I know that Christ does not use an I phone when standing between my sin and my Heavenly Father’s perfect nature. But I do know, through Christ’s own bleeding wounds and atonement for my disobedience, I do not have to fear the reckoning that is to come.
To God Be the Glory.