The nights when I have the most to do - some combination of dishes to wash, breakfasts to make for the week, and things to review or draft for work - are the nights my five-year-old never listens.
My orders that he brush his teeth and put on his pajamas fall on willfully deaf ears. Despite the many pairs in his drawer, he claims he cannot find clean pajamas. He makes excuses that the toothpaste tube is nearly empty and he can't get any more out, though I know he doesn't even try. He plays. He finds ways to create an even bigger mess in the room he shares with his older brother. He jumps from one bed to the other and back again, and with each leap he stretches a bedtime routine that should take but a few minutes into something much, much longer.
With every minute that slips by, I see all the work I need to do more clearly. The mountain comes closer, and I can feel it begin to crush me.
Bedtime on such nights is a real struggle.
So I raise my voice. I yell.
Get ready for bed! Now!
I make threats.
Or else no book!
I let him know this is no act.
I mean it!
He continues to ignore me, and I let him know on these nights, in my loudest voice yet, there will be no book. When I walk from his room and close the door behind me I know there will immediately be tears, and there are. Through them, and through the door, he pleads for a book. He will get ready for bed, he promises.
Please, Daddy, read me a book! Please, Daddy!
Bedtime on such nights is a real struggle, one I always lose, for I always give in.
On the most recent of these nights it occurred to me this would be a learning opportunity for my son. He could do well to know the beauty of grace. Grace is something we hear about in church, but the idea that we are loved for nothing of our own doing is hard to understand. That such love is never ending, no matter our faults, is difficult to grasp. As I picked out a book and walked toward his bed, I hoped he realized that because of the way he had been acting he did not deserve this. I hoped he might sense grace at work in that very moment.
But as we each made ourselves comfortable and I turned to the beginning, my son, without any words, let me know that I was wrong. Grace is not so deliberately given. Grace instead comes freely and innocently, and it comes not expecting or even hoping that lessons might be learned.
Grace comes as a sweet and beautiful five-year-old boy, one who, having already forgotten his father's impatience and anger, snuggles close, happily awaiting a bedtime story.
Despite everything, he loves me.
And, as it goes with grace, I feel I may never be worthy of it.