Reacting with grace

By James Willoughby

My yard looks amazing! Well, I should clarify that statement. A 16-foot circle in by back yard looks amazing! Okay “amazing” is a bit of a stretch, but this section is far less likely to catch fire than most of my yard.

You see, I turned on my sprinkler the other night when I was out back playing with my daughter. And 18 hours later a flash of worry sucker punched me in the head (which may have been accompanied by a mild profanity), when I realized I never turned the sprinkler off.

My initial thought was, “What an idiot! How could I be so dumb?” I texted my wife in a panic and expected her to echo those sentiments. I don’t know which emoji sends the message that one is an idiot, but I had a feeling I was about to find out.

Instead, all I got in response was a calm reassurance that she was about to leave work and would turn it off. There was no judgment…no condescending emoji…just grace.

I brought it up again when I got home that night and reminded her just how idiotic I was, presenting her with another opportunity to lay into me a little bit. But she passed on the chance. Instead of giving me what I deserved, she offered grace. For some reason it’s a little hard for me to accept grace, and even harder for me to extend it to others.

The evening before, prior to turning on the sprinkler, I handed my son (Alex) his football helmet, and in a whirl of chaos, I loaded the kids in my car and sped off to practice field. When we arrived at the field, I was parting ways with Alex when he asked, “Where’s my helmet?” I assumed he was joking and retorted “Ha, ha! Nice try!”

It was no joke though, and my mood quickly changed. My response was not grace. I don’t remember exactly what I said to Alex, but the way I said it sent him a message that I was angry and that his actions disappointed me. I react that way far too often.

I have high expectations for myself and for those around me, and when those expectations go unmet, I often respond poorly. The forgotten helmet really wasn’t a big deal. It only cost me 20 minutes and a little extra gas, but all I focused on was the fact that Alex didn’t do what I asked…again.

Change begins with awareness of a need for change. The contrast between my response to disappointment and my wife’s response was a moment of awareness for me. There is a sizable gap between who I want to be in those moments and who I am.

My next step is working to catch myself in the moment when the disappointment is bubbling to the surface. When my instinct is to express criticism, I need to remember that green patch in my backyard and offer grace instead.

By James Willoughby

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.