I had a revelation not too long ago. It began with a baby vomiting on my sweater. My brand new sweater, of course.
I giggled as I wiped the vomit from my shoulder, cooing at the little one in my arms, forgiving him for what he didn't know he did. Words like, "Aww, it's okay!" poured out of me to make sure he knew, even if he didn't understand, that I wasn't mad at him. I'm like this with babies; I have been since I became a big sister. I love babies. Love them. Unconditionally. I've been spit on, coughed on, hair-pulled, slapped, ignored. Yes, I've been poo'd on. I've even had a toddler fart directly in my face. Was I ever angry? Frustrated? Irritable beyond forgiveness? Never. Because I love babies. And I know that they truly don't know any better.
Why can't I love adults this way?
I get angry at the tourist that stops mid-sidewalk for getting in my way. I jump to frustration at the rude sales associate on the other line. I become hurt when someone is upset with me or doesn't return a phone-call.
Why don't I coo at these grown adults with the same unfailing love I have for babies? Shouldn't I love them the exact same way?
I can't just assume that adults always know better; they may have been instructed better as children, but they may not know because they may have never been shown. We all started as children being given grace until we were old enough to be taught lessons. Somewhere on our journey to adulthood it became logical that if we were taught, then we should know better, and if we should know better, then we aren't deserving of the same grace we would be given if we didn't.
When I asked Jesus to come into my life, I was 'born' again. A baby again, beginning a journey to maturity in my walk with Christ. I learned about the grace He has for me, and was grateful when people generously offered me the occasional "Aww, it's okay!" Spiritual growth happens in time, in phases, just like physical growth. We start as newborns in our faith, then we learn to crawl. Then walk, and talk, and the maturation continues. Our whole life is a journey, growing. We don't become perfectly righteous beings overnight. In fact, we don't become perfectly righteous beings in this life at all. That's why we're always journeying, growing, learning, making mistakes as we go.
I have to be able to look at my friends who know Jesus, and the ones who don't, with the same loving spirit that I look at babies: you're learning. You're growing. You don't know it all yet, and neither do I. None of us do. We're all on the journey, together, and we must love and forgive one another the way we love and forgive a child.
My hope is that I will learn to have the same natural response of abundant grace to adults that I have always had with babies. That doesn't mean I plan to walk around with an aura of superiority or belittlement; I'm in need of grace and forgiveness as much as the gal next to me. It simply means that I resort back to the earliest rule I was taught as a child; treat a person the way I want to be treated. Imagine if we all shared that same unfailing forgiveness and love to one another as adults. There would be much less need for it because it would be offered up in excess all around us. So, my personal mission from here on out is simply this: show grace. Forgiveness. Understanding. Compassion. Love strangers the way I love babies.