Her little hands reach out, grabbing the container, eagerly, ambitiously pouring the entire contents into the small pot. Flecks of oatmeal decorate the counter and floor.
Thank God most of it made it into the pot. I laugh. Thank God there wasn't much in the box left to make an even bigger mess.
We strike fire and put the pot to boil for our morning breakfast.
Then, as I clean out the fridge, I scrape leftovers - a mound of uneaten quinoa - into a trash bag. The whole thing avalanches onto the floor.
But I stop and think, that's okay. There's mercy for that.
And then I really stop.
So there's mercy for that? But there is no mercy for the child who spills a little oatmeal onto the counter? Who was only trying to help? Who was only trying to imitate her mom?
Later the same morning, I collide into our kitchen cart. The pumpkin seeds in the bowl I hold go flying everywhere. And then my eyes are opened.
God is showing me something.
What is mercy, Jean?
Can I really expect my two year old to keep standards that even I can't achieve? "Don't spill that! Watch out! Wipe your hands!"
Does God make me apologize - make me say "I'm sorry" - every time I am imperfect?
I am crushed beneath the weight of my own stone-hearted hypocrisy.
I judge, I criticize, I find fault. And while I don't knit-pick, I am exacting. And all this on a little person who is forced to spend all day in my care, who just learned to walk a year ago, is barely able yet to pull down her own pants to sit on the potty, and can't even yet hold a pencil the right way. She can't even make a line on a paper, only stabs or scribbles; her fingers aren't developed enough for her to spread jam on toast, she only gouges at the bread with her knife.
And I am holding a standard up to her that even I can't achieve. When she spills her water, when she accidently pees on the carpet, if she drops a ton of crumbs on the dining room floor - just for making my heavy, pregnant body get on hands and knees a hundred times a day, wiping and cleaning - I sigh, I begrudge, I grit my teeth.
God have mercy on a person such as me. Show me how I cannot even live up to my own standards. Let me see how I would balk under my own oppressive oversight if I had to live with a person such as myself. Teach me how to see the mercy and lovingkindness you extend towards me everyday, and give me the grace to extend this same mercy and lovingkindness to those whom I've been entrusted, especially the defenseless young!
"Do not let mercy and truth forsake you. Bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you shall find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man." Proverbs 3:3