I see the entire thing unfold from right where I’m standing as the sound check comes to a close. I’ve been watching my boys weave in and out of the empty pews. Even though there are countless hymnals, their competitive spirit and quest to conquer makes them lunge for the exact same one just to see who will win. I suspect this will not end well.

As their hands grab the hymnal, one brother snatches it from the other faster than a quarterback snaps a football and proceeds to flash a “Ha-Ha-I-beat-you-to-it,” smirk right at his brother.

Indignant anger rushes across my defeated son’s face. I can see the steam rolling out of his ears—his rage pushing him down a vengeful path which will not be good for anyone.

The last chord rings and I hustle to intercept the fight by separating the boys. “You sit over here and you sit over there,” I instruct. In this moment I know I have a choice to make–a crossroad where I have failed time and time again, but this moment is a new chance for grace instead of shame.

How to Love as a Conduit of Grace via The MOB Society

Options for responses flash through my brain like lightning. I pause, breathe and analyze what’s really going on–what’s at the root of his anger? Because obviously, a snatched hymnal alone would never warrant such a strong reaction and I’m guessing this isn’t the first time this morning he’s felt misunderstood and marginalized.

What he really wants is to know he matters. 

To believe he’s worthy of winning.

And to experience being valued and loved.

I’ve begun begging God for wisdom, insight, and kindness when these parenting crossroads arrive, and with His help I do the one thing my son least expects.

In silence, I kneel at his level, open my arms wide, and pull him in tight. He’s rigid and resistant, but we connect like magnets and I remain.

Almost a full minute passes before I slowly whisper it in his ear.

You wanted to know you could be the winner, huh?

He nods.

You want your brother to believe you matter, don’t you?

His body softens and melts into mine. He lifts his arms from his side and wraps them around my back as he nods again.

I wait in silence before I whisper it even more quietly than before.

I want you to know God already chose you as His winner. He thinks you matter so much that He picked you to be His. And you know what? He is never, ever leaving you.

I pause and maintain our embrace.

And you know what else? Neither am I. I think you’re amazing and I pick you too. You’re stuck with me. Forever!

As I pull our bodies apart, I look into his ocean-blue eyes and smile. And he breaks. He pushes his shoulders back and a proud smile emerges, like he believes me with his whole eight-year-old heart.

All his anger is gone. The grace of our embrace cracks the possibility of hope emerging from his little heart, making it possible for him to extend grace too.

To hear someone’s heart is to hold their soul.
And it’s in the holding we feel seen and known and deeply loved.

It was God’s grace that helped me see what his heart needed.

No condemnation for his anger.

No chastisement for his response.

What he needed was to be heard and for his heart to be held.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. — Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)

Gentle grace melted him and he left feeling seen and known and loved.

Perhaps more important than instructing our boys how to love, is for them to experience grace-filled loving from us. 

May they love well one day, not because we told them, but because we showed them–as we surrendered our hearts each day to be the conduit of this same grace God has given to us.

Some resources and encouragement for receiving grace for ourselves and learning to give more grace in our parenting:




Parenting the Wholehearted Child FREE Study guide, by Jeannie Cunnion

What happened at your last parenting crossroad?
How would absorbing God’s grace for your failure help you give more grace as a mom?



Jacque Watkins is a mercy lover, podcaster of Mud Stories, and champion of second chances. To receive her FREE list of resources for finding freedom from failure, CLICK HERE.