I caught him red-handed, or peanut-butter and jelly-handed to be more exact. I had left the kitchen for a brief moment to put something away and came back to find him pushing his plate under the kitchen island.
I always said, “I will not raise picky eaters.” That was before I met my match in my own toddlers. We had started out so well, I had ground my own millet for rice cereal and pureed the whole produce department; however, as soon as soon as we moved into finger foods, my children became pernicioulsy picky. Thus began our many meal time standoffs.
That particular day, the stalemate was over a tiny triangle of the all-American toddler poster food, PB&J. I mean, I wasn’t asking him to eat asparagus or sushi; I only required him eat an inordinately small portion of the easiest kid food in history. But he wasn’t having it.
When I walked into the kitchen and caught him in the act, I wept. While some of the emotion could genuinely have been chalked up to exhaustion, for the most part, the tears were flowing because I had a profound moment with the Lord at that juncture.
There he was, in the midst of his rebellion and deceit, and here I was, broken-hearted for him as I saw the propensity of his little heart toward sin in action. I wasn’t even mad at him. I was truly sad that there had been a breach in our trust, that a silly untouched triangle of PB&J had caused him to deceive me.
So right there, in the midst of his disappearing sandwich act, I gently called his name with tears rolling down my cheeks. I grabbed him up tight into my embrace and told him I loved him. Consequences were coming, but at that moment, I was so overcome with love for him.
He was caught in the act, but even more so, he was called in the act. In that moment, a verse that I had known took on a profound new meaning for me.
For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6.
God seems to have a knack for calling people in the act of eagerly, actively rebelling against Him, running from Him and attempting to deceive Him. It seems to be his M.O.
“Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1) is the verse that sets the stage for Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus. Saul was actively engaging in a murderous plot against the people of God when God called his name personally, beginning a relationship that would change the course of his life.
“As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to Him, ‘Follow me.’ (Mark 2:14). Levi was literally called in the act of extortion of God’s people.
Jacob, the patron not-saint of deceivers, was literally on the run from a wronged father and brother when He first truly encountered the Lord (Genesis 28).
The list goes on and on.
It seems that calling in the act is not only God’s MO for initiating relationship with the children He so loves but also for deepening his relationships with His children.
Peter, in the act of betraying His teacher and Lord, was seen and found out. His betrayal was not met with shame and a pointing finger, but a sweet fish breakfast with the forgiving Lord who called him in the act to go and shepherd and feed God’s flock, as a fallen and forgiven father (John 21).
David, a committed king of the Lord, was caught in the act multiple times, first with a premeditated murder plot and adultery, then later, with his haste to do a census for his own glory and congratulation. Both times, when caught in the act, he was also called in the act, called into deeper knowledge of their sin and God’s forgiveness (Psalm 51).
When I caught my stubborn little fella jelly-handed, I learned something that deeply affected me. Whether we are caught looking at something we ought not be seeing, caught spending needlessly when we ought be saving or giving, caught talking about people when we ought to be talking to them or caught in the myriad of other sinful webs we find ourselves spinning, the fact remains. When our loving God catches us in the act, there is always the opportunity to be called in the act. Called by our name, called to the cross, called to deeper distrust of the sin that lies latent in the depths of our hearts and called to more intimate knowledge of the Father’s grace and forgiveness.