Today in church, during the most reflective part, a little girl in a soft pink Easter dress spilled her grape communion juice. It trickled down her dress and pooled on the floor beneath her sandals. I was sitting two rows behind her.
Quickly, her grandpa and grandma (who happened to be the pastor and his wife!) found a cloth and began to wipe her dress and the floor. Her father joined in, trying to minimize the damage. And then, her mother–hawk-like and decisive–turned from her seat at the end of the aisle and made her way to where her daughter sat.
I felt myself bristle. Would this mother scold? Would she grab her daughter and drag her out of the church, shaming her for distracting the other worshipers? Was the Easter dress expensive, and would the little girl be punished for staining it?
The mother leaned down to her daughter. I couldn’t see the daughter’s face, but she had her head down, shaking.
The mother took the child’s face in her hands, firmly, tilting the chin up.
Then, looking clearly into that little girl’s eyes, she kissed her cheek and smiled.
Something about the way that mother held the girl’s face, something about tilting a chin up, something about that soft kiss overwhelmed me. It was a picture of God’s grace: choosing to love and not shame, lifting a face, covering a stain with a kiss. It was Easter flair.
Maybe I was so struck because I studied the emotion of shame in graduate school. When we feel tormenting inferiority because of a shortcoming, the body’s response is to look down. We hide. We cannot endure the gaze of an audience.
But this mother tilted the child’s face up. By refusing to allow the shame response, this mother locked eyes with her daughter and gazed with love and unconditional acceptance.
Later, I saw that little girl laughing and running around at an Easter egg hunt. The bright stain on her dress made no difference to her. But it could have.
Living with flair means I take a face in my hands (even if it’s my own), tilt up the chin, and choose to love regardless of the deep stain. Who isn’t walking around with grape juice on their clothes? Who isn’t that child? Who doesn’t need a love like that?
Beautiful picture of grace. You captured it so well!
Good one girlfriend!:)
LOVE your post, Heather!!!!! As a visual learner, that image of the “flair” of Easter will stay with me for a very, very long time. Thank you!!!
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Penn State's Alma Mater includes a line “may no act of ours bring shame to the heart that loves thy name.” Too many times I think the Alma Mater should be have been a hymn. But the point is He loves us. I love how you point out He chose, “to love and not shame.” I thank you for sharing this photograph of grace.
My mother has a Mandarin phrase she often uses. It is meant to discourage my slouching. However, I have since heard it as a call of love.
Tái Tóu, Tíng Xiong. Raise your head. Straighten your core. Our Father is lifting our chins and straightening our shoulders so we are able to grow straight like bamboo shoots in the wisdom and stature of the Lord.
I praise God for these moments that hold graceful momentum. You have eyes to see and ears to hear, and both, as gifts from God, are well-refined. May God continue to bless both as you share the word.
a message from your friendly neighborhood fiddler
I don't know how I missed this stunning picture of grace last year. So very glad you posted a link to it today.
Your stories of flair go deep, dear Heather.