By Kristen S. Sandoz
The other day my five-year-old son had a friend over and they spent a lot of time with our hens. Later that day when I went to check on the ladies I found two eggs smashed against the fence and evidence of a cover up. If you have ever raised your own chickens you know how precious eggs are. I was not happy about this and handled the whole thing very poorly. That night I was really disturbed by my reaction and it brought to mind an experience I had as a five year old.
It was small, black, exquisitely hand painted, and edged with gold gilding. It was lovely and delicate much like a teacup with gold trim. You know the kind that even as an adult you’re afraid to touch its dainty handle with your comparatively large and clumsy fingers. Only a teacup doesn’t quite compare with the fragility of nature. In my hand I was holding an egg. It was a gift to my mother from our Japanese neighbor, who moments before had delivered it to our door. At the age of five I was fascinated with its elegance. I had asked my mother if I could hold it. Without hesitation she handed it to me and then turned and left the room. What was she thinking?
I remember exactly what I was thinking as I held that piece of art and stroked its fine detailing. The thought just came to me. Not out of naughtiness but out of genuine curiosity. Somewhere in my short little five-year-old life I had heard that an egg shell was so strong that you could squeeze it and it would not break. Lord knows why at that moment I chose to test this theory with this particular egg. I was not thinking about action and reaction. All I was thinking was how good it felt to squeeze the impressively strong orb in my hand.
It’s hard to describe how it felt in my grip. Perhaps you will have to try it yourself to understand. But it felt GOOD. It felt satisfying. Like pushing myself to an extreme, like holding my breath under water until the very last of my capability and then holding it just one second longer. I was truly amazed and absorbed in its strength. Just how much pressure could it handle? Was I strong enough to break it? Was it even possible?
Then it happened and it was as if the whole world around me slowly imploded into the palm of my hand and I saw for one second, at five years old, a glimpse of the tragedy of many people’s lives. My chest tightened, my heart stopped, my hand quivered and the feeling of utter despair, irrevocable damage, and life long regret swept through my entire being. I was left standing with nothing but the shards of a once whole, precious, and beautiful object.
I did what all of us want to do when we experience this type of regret and loss. I immediately ran to my mother. I sobbed uncontrollably into her arms for my loss, for her loss. She let me cry until my tears were dry and then without anger and with true grace she said, “It’s okay. Accidents happen. It was only an egg.” At the time I thought she was putting on an act to get me to stop crying. After all it was probably the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life up to that point. Now as an adult I understand. It was only an egg.
It was a gift to learn deep regret for such a small price. I have often remembered that egg broken in my hand when I am on the edge of an impulse. That feeling of immediate satisfaction or pleasure warms itself in my being and then I see a lovely black egg nestled safely in the palm of my hand. Suddenly without warning my heart stops and instantly my muscles seize up and I am filled with that feeling of regret once again and I am saved. What cemented this lesson in my mind was my mother’s reaction. She comforted and mourned with me. If she had yelled and raged or punished me I might have felt duly reward and moved on.
I often wish I could recreate this scene for myself adult. I wish that some how I could learn the pain of regret before the stakes are too high. I wish I could trust myself with this precious gilded egg and let myself break it. I wish that I could react as my mother reacted with grace and forgiveness and open arms. But I can’t help but wonder about the balance between grace and justice. If my boys were to make a mistake that couldn’t be nicely mended how could I keep them from throwing the baby out with the bath water? This is not the message I want my boys to get. This is not grace. Is there not a good and whole life to be led after regret? Is there not repentance, redemption, and reconciliation? Did Christ not die because there are fragile eggs that we just cannot put back together again? I want my boys to know that I love them no matter what. I want to echo God’s grace, healing, and love, so they can come to truly understand that neither life, nor death, nor angles, nor demons, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, can separate them from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.