Lately, we’ve been reaping the benefits of having a child who is now old enough to babysit. I’m telling you, this has opened up a whole new world. The possibilities are endless! If Brian and I are like, “Man, it would be so great if we could have a date night,” we stop ourselves and say, “Wait. WE CAN,” because our built-in babysitter sleeps just downstairs. He has asked a few times if we’re going to pay him, to which we reply, “Yes. You get to live here another day.” If he even hints at the unfairness of the arrangement, I just launch into my famous, “Oh, you wanna talk about fair?” speech, and the case is closed.
On a recent night out, we received a distressed phone call mid-dinner from our resident babysitter. There was sibling drama—what should he do? We gave some instructions and then continued on with our lovely evening. We returned home to find out that things had only escalated, especially for one child in particular who has having trouble cooperating. Another child decided it would be a good idea to have evidence of said behavior so that we, the parentals, could see for ourselves how bad it was, so they videoed the tantrum.
This video. It was not pretty. Can you imagine the very worst you on your very worst day, videoed for all to see? When it’s captured on video, you can’t explain the facts away. You can’t downplay the damage. It’s all there, permanently pixilated, open for judgment from one and all.
I deleted the video.
I crept into this child’s room. I knew they would still be awake. There they were, shame-filled eyes staring up at me from beneath the covers.
Poor thing. My heart broke.
“I know it was wrong, Mom—I know it was. It’s just, sometimes when you get angry you say things you don’t mean. I’m sorry. I really am.”
This child didn’t have to explain themselves to me. I knew exactly what they meant. I’ve been there way too many times—venom spewing, temper boiling, impatience splattering bitterly onto all within reach. And then the shame. Always the shame.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our family had just watched Moana the previous day. We are late to the Moana party, but can I just say, we LOVED it. The music, the story, the gorgeous animation. It was perfection. But what won me over more than anything else was the beautiful gospel imagery at the end of the movie. (Spoiler alert, although that’s probably unnecessary, because I think I’m the only person with kids who is just now seeing it.)
The story goes like this: Moana, the island chief’s daughter, and Maui, a demigod, set out to break the curse that’s destroying their land by returning a jewel, called the Heart of Te Fiti, to a mountain across the sea. In one of the final scenes, Moana and Maui are fighting a lava monster in an effort to get to the mountain and return the jewel. The monster is ruthless and terrifying, striking with fire and attempting to destroy them with every blow. Then, Moana looks at the lava monster in all her horrendous fury. It’s like she’s seeing her for the first time. Here’s the clip:
Moana saw the mountain in the monster. What a stunning picture of grace calling out one’s true identity, of looking through the horrible to see the beautiful hidden beneath—the beautiful that’s been twisted because of disappointment, pain, and grief.
I showed this clip to my child. I said, “I know when you think about what you did, when you think about that video, you see yourself as this lava monster. The worst parts of you on display. I want you to know that I know that’s not who you are. I know who you are…a life-giver. A masterpiece of your Father’s creation. Kind, generous, strong. Your not-so-great behavior? It does not define you. It’s not who you are. You’re no monster; you’re a well-loved child of the King.”
I wonder, do you ever see yourself in the lava monster? I do. That’s why this scene made me cry. I hate when the ugly of my heart is exposed. I hate when it affects those I love. Sometimes I want to shut myself in my closet and stay there for a good long while because I am so undone by the shame of my failures. But if I listen close, I’ll hear the voice of my Rescuer, the One who never tires of rescuing me, again and again and again:
“I have crossed the horizon to find you;
I know your name.
They have stolen the heart from inside you,
But this does not define you.
This is not who you are;
You know who you are.”
Can I say something here? Some of us need to see ourselves in the lava monster more often than we do. We’re so quick to see the monster in others—to judge them, call out their faults ,and say “I would never!” and “Can you believe they did such-and-such?” when actually, we ourselves are capable of anything. We all have a propensity towards sin that is ugly and hideous, and it’s dangerously self-righteous to think we don’t.
For others of us, it’s hard to see ourselves as anything but the lava monster. We lay in bed at night, pinned by a mountain of regret that resides on our chests. We think about those words we said, that thing we did, and we are so very ashamed.
The lava monster inside each of us is repulsive, and it makes people want to run. It makes us want to run from ourselves. We need others to be brave enough to step towards us in the midst of our ugliness, in the midst of our fury, and remind us of our true identity. In these moments, we desperately need the gospel: “This is not who you are. I know who you are.” Oh, how our relationships would change if we would step towards each other. If we would graciously speak truth to each other.
My child expected the law, and in all honesty, there were consequences that were eventually handed out. But what they needed more than anything else was for me to step towards them as someone who could say, “I’ve been the lava monster, too. It’s not who I am, and it’s not who you are, either. Remember who you are.”
When you’re drowning in shame; when you feel like the screaming, clawing, worst version of yourself, do not stay in that shame. Your Savior knows your name, and He is here to remind you. You were created to give life, not tear it down.
Grace changes everything, even my hot, smoldering, rebellious heart. It can change yours, too.