If you had watched us walk to school one morning last week, you would have thought us the perfect family. Each girl had one of my hands and we were enjoying one of those swiftly fleeting moments in each others company.
What you wouldn’t have seen were the moments before we left our home.
I was so frustrated, I wanted to scream. The girls were so mad that they were screaming at the top of their lungs.
When we walked out of the house I figured it would be a silent walk to school that day. But the feelings faded. We grasped each others hands as signs that we still loved each other.
What a passerby might have seen that morning was the ideal family on the way to school . The reality though, is that all that passerby would have seen is but one moment in time.
One moment in a million of other moments in our complicated life as a family.
The irony of that walk, took me back to another moment in time when someone witnessed an event where we weren’t at our best. This incident involved the same three people, four years younger. This time we were enjoying lunch out in the big city at a fast food restaurant. The 2 1/2 year old, having just been toilet trained, declared that she had to go to the washroom before we had finished our meal. With my purse and the diaper bag slung over my shoulder, we traipsed into the washroom. Once in the stall, that same child said, “I don’t have to go, Mommy.” As I just couldn’t envision making the trip again, I insisted strongly that she try. Some ‘helpful’ women witnessing the incident from outside the stall chastised me saying, ‘give the kid a break.’
Those words struck to the heart of my insecurities as a mother and I was devastated. In that one moment, I felt like the world’s worst mother.
We left the washroom only to return moments later because that same 2 1/2 year old decided that she did indeed have to go. When we made it back to our table, our food had been cleared away, and I had to contend with a disappointed child who at that moment wanted nothing more than her chicken finger back.
Packing them up to make the return trip home, I barely made it to the van before collapsing in tears.
Both this recent incident and that one several years ago, were only moments in time. What I didn’t realize at the time of the earlier incident, I recognized today. None of these moments define who I am as a person, nor do either of them define me as a mother. All these stories do is capture but one side of who I am as expressed in a unique set of circumstances.
Just like the proverbial broken clock that is accurate only two times a day, those snapshots of me at my high points and at my low points are only accurate some of the time. Thing is, it’s the series of those moments across my whole life time that say a whole lot more about me.
That’s not just true about me but about all those people who I meet in my daily life about whom I make snap judgements based on just one glimpse of who they are.
Every one of us have moments of which we are extremely proud of what we have done. We also have those moments in which we are deeply ashamed of how we have behaved. Instead of recognizing that they are only moments, we judge ourselves by them. Sometimes we come out the winner but as often we come out the loser. We begin to believe the press, both good and bad.
If we define ourselves by just one moment, we fail to see the bigger picture. Each perspective, however, is slightly off kilter, no matter whether we think too highly of ourselves or whether we don’t think very much about who we are.
There is One who sees the big picture when we can’t: the One who gave birth to the universe. The One who gave birth to all creatures great and small sees us in all our moments – in all of our glory and all of our shame.
In all of these moments God sees us as beloved.
In that moment when we are less than a stellar parent, God sees us as we are and sees us as beloved.
In that moment when we have re-acted in thoughtless yet all familiar unhelpful behaviors towards our partners, God sees us as we are and sees us as beloved.
In that moment, when we have hurt our neighbor, God sees us as we are and sees us as beloved.
When we realize the truth of that love in the midst of the good and the bad, then we are able to open ourselves to admitting that we don’t always reach the ideal and we can revel in the joy that is forgiveness and unconditional love.
Not just from God, but also toward one another.
So that when we see someone at their worst moments we can also begin to see them as beloved by God.
Perhaps, then too another moment in time will be filled with grace and love.