One day as I was checking the docket at the courthouse, a woman approached me and asked where a particular courtroom was. She went on to explain that she was nervous because her son was scheduled to appear on a possession of marijuana charge.
“Why does that make you nervous?” I asked.
“He could go to jail,” she said.
“Did you drive here today?” I asked. After confirming that she had driven her son to the courthouse, I responded by encouraging her, saying “Well, if he goes to jail, just drive home.”
“But he’s my baby,” she explained.
“How old is he?” I asked. After learning her son was 19, I told her bluntly but as kindly as possible, “He’s not your baby. He’s a grown man.”
It was about that time her son joined us. “Is this him?” I asked, and she affirmed it was.
“Listen,” I said, turning my attention to him, “you are not a child anymore. Smoking weed and getting your mom to drive you to court are childish. You are a man, you are equipped to be a man and it’s time to start being a man. When I was a child, I acted like one, but when I became a man, I put childish things behind me. It’s time for you to do the same; you are a man and you are capable of putting childish things away.”
This young man’s shoulders straightened up, his eyes locked in and everything about his body language accepted the reality I was presenting him. His mom, at the same time, looked terrified. It was clear she was much less ready for him to be a man than he was.
I don’t know what happened with his court case, but whatever consequences he had to deal with were a benefit to him. A misdemeanor on his record is a small price to pay if he was able to allow the consequence to draw him into responsibility.
Love allows for consequences because consequences allow for repentance. When we have to deal with the implications of our immaturity and/or depravity, we are more aware of the goodness of God. From the place of pain that results from our rebellion or immaturity, we get to choose. We can either choose to submit our lives to the goodness of God or maintain our rebellious attempts of making our own way. The choice to submit our lives back to the goodness of God is much more appealing when we have tried it without Him and are facing the reality of our choices.
We all mess up, but what we do is not who we are. Don’t rescue people from their consequences and don’t believe their mistakes are who they are any more than your mistakes are who you are. The kindness of the Lord leads to repentance, not the sloppy compassion or harsh judgment we may offer in its place.
It’s graceful to let people realize grace by letting them deal with their own consequences. The realization of grace is born of fire, and fire burns every time. Let it happen. We aren’t doing others any favors by being less than honest in our relationships. Honesty includes the willingness to allow others to choose as well as to experience the results of their choices.
From “Abundant and Free; Seeing Life Through the Lens of Grace” now available on Amazon.