Courtesy of my wonderful wife, Kelly:
While reading this month’s issue of Good Housekeeping, I came across a story of a frantic mother seeking advice about her 8-year-old daughter, Gracie. “I am so afraid that I have passed on my troubles with food to her, and I don’t know whether to remove all candy from the house, take her to a doctor, or put her on a strict diet. Help!”
The author does not choose any of the mother’s resolutions. Her advice to the mother? “…buy enough chocolate to fill an entire kitchen cabinet. Designate one cabinet The Chocolate Cabinet and fill it to overflowing with the chocolate you bought. Now, tell your daughter that this is hers and hers alone. Tell her that she can eat as much of it as she wants and that you will fill it back up when the cabinet gets even a tiny bit empty. Do not criticize her. Do not watch her with hawk eyes. And make sure that cabinet is brimming with chocolate.”
Upon receiving this radical advice, the mother protests that this will only turn her child into a chocolate-devouring monster, but decides to give it a try. After two weeks the mother remarked “when Gracie realized I was not going to criticize her and that I was absolutely serious about letting her have as much as she wanted, she ate less and less”.
The author explains why this approach was fruitful. “What Gracie wanted wasn’t candy. She wanted her mother’s (positive) attention…The real issue is never the food.” And she tells a story of her own mother critiquing her as a child. “…she began watching what I ate, restricting certain food from my diet, telling me I was getting fat. How did the hawk-eye, restrictive approach work? Not so well. In response, I began hiding frozen Milky Ways in my pajama pants, sprinting past my parents’ room and sitting over the trash can in my room eating the candy bars as fast as I could, ready to spit them out if my mother opened the door and caught me. I began feeling as if I needed to look a certain way for her to love me, eat certain foods for her to approve of me. And so I began living (and eating) a double life.” From her own story she gleans that “deprivation, force, and shame do not ever, under any circumstances, lead to positive change.”
I couldn’t help reading these stories and thinking of God’s grace in my own life. I’ve heard people refer to one’s acknowledgment of the cross without the condition of change as “cheap grace” and, I must say, this flippant remark makes me very sad. I still grasp to understand the severity of his love in a most gruesome death, and that his love does not have an attached list of requirements. This is not a “He loves me too much to leave me that way” God, this is a God that loves me and when I (and I will) eat the entire cabinet of chocolate He goes on loving me. This is not cheap grace, this is unfathomable grace from a most holy God.
Whatever the “cabinet of chocolate” is in your life, know that you have a God of unfathomable grace. Praise be to God, not even chocolate can separate us from his love (Romans 8:38,39).