Levi is my combination rough and tumble/snuggle bug. He is stocky and solid. Giving him hugs is like squeezing a bear cub. I’m dreading him growing out of his lingering baby attributes.
We have a little routine every evening while I make dinner. I’ll be chopping and dicing above as he repeatedly opens and closes the cabinet door below, peeking in and giggling as though the view changes every time. Some nights in the midst of play, he’ll let out a frustrated squeal, immediately followed by an angry cry. Typical toddler sounds. I glance down. Did he see something in there that did not please him? Did a rogue pan jump out of place from his precariously stacked tower?
His cry changes again. Pain. Alert the mommy radar. He’s leaning hard into the closed cabinet door. “Levi? Buddy? What’s wrong?”
He leans back slightly from the door and looks into my eyes. In them I read pain, fear, and something else, a look that pleas, “Mommy, help.” And then I see his pinky finger, the tip lost in the crack of the tightly pressed cabinet.
I jump into action, pulling his weight off the door where he’s trapped his own finger. I sweep him into my arms, and press kiss after kiss to the little purple indentation across his plump baby finger until he wriggles away ready to return to play. The whole ordeal is nothing more than a few seconds, but still my mama-heart is rent.
He knows how the cabinet door works. Still he leans hard into his effort to close the door, even though it’s his own finger that stands in the way. The more pain he feels, the harder he leans in. Why?
For one, he is a baby and does not see his ordeal from the same perspective that I do. Then, his lack of understanding triggers the fear response. His fear and pain mar his judgment. When he realizes he is trapped, he looks at me with his big brown eyes, his wordless plea for help, and I show him that all he needed to do was stop leaning into his own pain.
The church I attend has been talking about the concept of unclaimed grace from the perspective of the book of Jonah. Until now, I’d never put myself in the shoes of Jonah. I mean, really, who wants to see oneself as a wayward prophet who runs from God. But, the more I learn what was at stake for Jonah, the more I understand why he purposefully walked out of the presence of God, and went in the opposite direction.
Later, in the midst of the storm at sea Jonah could have said to the sailors, “turn around,” instead he said, “throw me over,” leaning harder in the direction he had set out for himself. Ever watched a documentary depicting a raging storm at sea? The man didn’t expect to live. Brought to the point of death Jonah cried out, and the Lord came to his rescue.
So, there’s that concept of unclaimed grace. This unclaimed grace happens every time we have the opportunity cry out to God, but instead lean into the ill-fated direction we have chosen for ourselves. How many relational moments do we miss sharing with God because we are bent on our short-sighted solutions? How much grace sits shelved, waiting for us to let go of our own way and the pain to which we cling?
God stands above our storm not swayed by our fear and lack of understanding, holding the way out. All we have to do is turn around.
When I look into little Levi’s pain filled eyes that beg for rescue, I can only imagine the compassion of Jesus that swells every time we stop pressing forward on our paths to damage ourselves and look into his eyes and ask for help. The joy that must sing when we take hold of His mercy.
Let me always turn to God as quickly as Levi turns to me. My baby knows I am faithful to come to his rescue no matter how many times he shuts his finger in the door. He knows I will not respond in anger, but with compassion and kisses. How much more faithful and loving is my God?