When he was two-and-half-years-old, my grandson, Andrew, came across a fresh pile of dog poo in the yard. Having been told repeatedly to stay away from dog piles, he of course felt an irresistible desire to step on it and squish it around.
Not liking the odor, he walked across the lawn trying to scrape his shoes clean. When the grass failed to do the job, he headed for the patio and skidded across the concrete, leaving a trail of “muddy” footprints.
Glancing out the window, I noticed his strange movements. When I opened the door, I was greeted by a terrible smell, a sad little face, and the plaintive words, “Papa, clean me!”
Overcoming my impulse to chastise this smelly little boy, I instead knelt down and pulled his shoes off his feet, telling him, “Papa will get you clean, Drew.” We then grabbed the hose and began to spray away the evidence of his latest adventure.
As we finished the job, Drew rewarded my efforts with a glowing smile and a simple but priceless confession. “I sorry for mess, Papa. Thank you clean me.”
As I reflected on this episode a few minutes later, I found myself driven to prayer.
“Oh God, I do the same thing Drew did. Whenever I say or do things I know I shouldn’t, I make such a mess. And when I try to conceal my wrongs or fix them myself, I only make them worse.”
“But you are so gracious. You don’t condemn or shame me, or rub my face in my sin. All I need to say is, “God, please help me.” And then without rebuke, you cover me with your mercy and forgiveness, washing away the stain of my sin.”
“Help me to come to you more like Drew came to me. Humble, without excusing or blaming. Simply admitting my need and depending utterly on you as the only one who can clean and change me.”
“And please, God, make me more like you. Slow to criticize. Safe to approach. Eager to forgive. Glad to cover and wash away the wrongs of others.”
After I prayed, I realized that God had just given me another little lesson in relational wisdom: other-awareness (seeing Drew’s need and responding with kindness), self-awareness (seeing myself more accurately and seeking to change), and God-awareness (seeing God’s grace and discipline a little more clearly and praying that he would make me more like him).