The other day at work, a fifth grade boy behaved inappropriately and I asked him to remove himself from the kickball game. He did, but not without creating a scene and deliberately disobeying me when I told him to do something. Typical behavior for him. When he calmed down, I walked over and the first thing he said was, “I know, I know there is going be a consequence”. I asked him what he thought it should be and he replied, “Five weeks of no kickball or group game”. Pretty radical form of time out, I thought.
I told him I was kind of thinking no group game for the rest of the day and he looked at me shocked. So I said if you really want five weeks you can do five weeks and he agreed to the remainder of the day instead.
I find this is very typical working with kids. When given the chance to pick their consequence for inappropriate behavior, they almost always pick something way more drastic than I ever would. I believe they sincerely feel a need to be punished.
I remember feeling that way. Somehow being punished was tied up with getting over it and moving on. A form of penance, if you will. When I have felt badly enough, long enough, or been punished enough, than I can accept forgiveness. I see this in kids who tend to choose poor behavior quite often; a sense of shame that seeks a way to redeem themselves. After their consequence has been taken care of, they tend to trip over themselves trying to prove their goodness. I tell them repeatedly that poor choices don’t make them a bad person, but they turn deaf ears to that.
How hard it is to accept grace. To simply say I’m sorry, accept the forgiveness that Jesus paid such a tremendous price for and let it go. We tend to want to make it complicated; we want our just dues. Grace is receiving what we don’t deserve – forgiveness, healing, love, acceptance. Mercy is not getting what we do deserve – punishment, abandonment, judgment.
This kind of thinking just doesn’t line up with the Word of God or His heart. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9
Remember the Get Out of Jail Free card in Monopoly? Jesus taking our sins is our get out of sin free card. Only it wasn’t free to Him. He paid a great price and it must warm His heart to see us humbly accept what He purchased and continue in fellowship with Him. Shame and a need for punishment keep us distanced from Him and unable to receive the benefits He bought for us on that cross – healing being one of them.
Let’s don’t let shame and guilt and a need for penance stop us from receiving all that He has for us.
Gracious Lord Jesus, I humbly come. I know what I deserve and it isn’t mercy, but You give it anyway. Thank You for setting me free from the bondage of sin and shame. Forgive me for the times I would rather wallow in shame than just let it go. Help me to be merciful to others and to myself and to these kids in my care as together we learn grace in spite of poor behavior choices. In Your name, Amen.