Pick Up Your Toys or They are Going in the Trash
The December night was cold and dark. There was snow on the ground, and clutter all over the living room floor. I cannot remember how many times I had asked my children to clean up their mess that carpeted our carpet.
The nightly sequence was predictable. If I would use my exasperated authoritative dad voice…(which happens to be the same voice that Gandalf uses against the Balrog...“You Shall Not Pass!!!”)…my children would hop to it and clean up…one item, and then selective blindness would convince them that the room was clean and the job was finished.
“Open your eyes! Do you not see all of your toys that are still lying around!?”
“Oh, we didn’t see that!”
After more than 70 minutes of continuing to point out other things that had been missed, I decided to end this. I pulled out the kitchen garbage can and began to throw the toys away, which primarily included a Little People Christmas nativity set. I threw it away...and when I did, the kids began to scream and wail at the loss of their beloved toys. I threw away the donkeys. I threw away the lambs. As I dropped each member of the nativity into the trash…the screams grew. I threw away the crèche... “Scream!” I threw away the camels and the wise men…“Wail!” Mary and Joseph were tossed in along with the manger... “Scream!” I threw away the angel…and Baby Jesus! What is wrong with me!? Who throws Baby Jesus into the trash!
There is a saying…“The apple does not fall far from the tree.” I recall I time when I watched as my dad threw all of my sisters toys into a trash bag after she had also refused to clean her room. He threatened, “We will find someone who will take care of these toys and give them to her!.”
To which my sister replied, “Maybe you could give my Barbies to Emily. She might like them!”
Hmmm…I don’t think that was the reaction my dad was looking for.
While my children continued their screaming, I looked down into the trash that held Baby Jesus and the angel and the donkey and the rest of the set. I didn’t want to throw them away…but in my stress and frustration I overreacted. My children deserved to have their toys thrown away. They probably still do! My children needed to learn a lesson. Yet, deep in my soul I knew the lesson that they needed to learn was not a lesson of rules…rather, it was a lesson of grace.
I called my children close to me and I said to them, “You have not been listening to me…you have not been obeying what I have been asking you to do…you deserve to have me throw these toys away. But, I also don’t deserve the love and forgiveness of Jesus and yet he gives it to me. So, though you don’t deserve this, I am giving you back your toys as a picture of grace. Every time you play with these toys I want you to remember the grace of Jesus Christ.”
Each year we still get out the Little People nativity set out of the attic and we set it up. Though my kids no longer play with them, they remember that night…when Dad threw away Baby Jesus...and I hope that they also remember…the grace of Jesus Christ!