I’d like to pretend it was a day when I had been bombarded with unusual inconveniences and unruly behavior from my children. But it wasn’t. I’d like to pretend that I had suffered through the day and my behavior was justified. But it wasn’t. I’d like to pretend that I was sick or tired or under a great deal of stress. But I wasn’t.
Truth be told, it was just an ordinary day, filled with nothing more than minor irritations. A child spilled her milk, another took his brother’s toy. Someone threw a temper tantrum. No one got a nap.
But for some reason, it did not feel like an ordinary day. It felt personal, like every little irritation or inconvenience was aimed directly at me. I could not stand to hear one more whining tone, or listen to one more argument. I did not want to determine who had what first, or tell someone to stop doing something to someone else. I did not want to clean up one more spill or get one more person something he couldn’t reach himself or remind one more child of the rules.
It didn’t seem like anyone was remembering the rules, even though they were the same rules we’ve had in this house since the dawn of time. So I was astonished, simply astonished, to find my seven-year-old sitting in the living room with my sharpest pair of scissors in his hand, the scissors he’s not supposed to touch without asking, the scissors he’s never, never to use except at the table.
“What are you doing?” I exclaimed as I came over to him.
I looked down and saw him sitting on the carpet in a pile of red shards. He was holding one of my new folders in his hand. It had been cut to bits.
“What are you DOING?!” I said in a much louder tone.
He looked up at me, but no words came out of his mouth. I couldn’t believe he was sitting in my living room cutting up my folder with a pair of scissors he was not supposed to use—ever.
“You’re cutting up my folder?!” I was shouting now. I would like to believe I was simply speaking sternly. But I wasn’t.
“You’re using my good scissors to cut up my folder! I can’t believe you’re doing this! You know better!”
“Mom, I…” he began.
I didn’t want to hear it. There was nothing he could say that would make it any better. He knew the rules, and he had disobeyed. He had taken something of mine without asking, and he had destroyed it. I was in utter disbelief.
“Go to bed,” I demanded. He put his head down and headed for the stairs before the tears began to flow.
I got the rest of the children to bed. No stories. No cuddles. Mommy was not in the mood. I came downstairs and looked at the pile of red on my carpet. I couldn’t even stand to see it. I turned off the light and went to bed myself.
In the morning, that pile of paper was still there. I fully intended to make my son clean it up himself. But I wanted to put the scissors away before the twins woke up and used it to cut their hair. Or worse. That’s why we have rules about scissors, I thought, remembering the time my son cut his hair down to the scalp and spent the rest of the summer looking like a holocaust victim.
I picked up the scissors. Something caught my eye. It was a heart, crudely fashioned out of red. Then I saw another. And another. Three little red hearts made out of my red folder were stacked up on the floor. They had scribbles all over the backs, but the biggest one was decorated on the front with washable Crayola. “I Love you,” it said in second-grader handwriting.
I felt the sob in my throat. And I cried.
I cried because I had forgotten the rule, the greater rule, the rule about love and kindness and believing the best about my son when all the evidence was against him. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
Love is everything I had not been to my son. I called Jonathan upstairs. “Look what I found,” I said, not really knowing how to begin.
He nodded. “Yep. I made those for you because the boys scribbled on your folder, and I thought that since they had ruined it, I would make you feel better.”
I didn’t think I could feel any worse. “Oh, Jonathan,” I said, squeezing him to me. “I’m so sorry.”
He nodded again and smiled, but he had tears in his eyes. We sat and hugged for a long time, both of us thinking about how much better it is when love reigns.
“Let’s put this up on the fridge,” I said, taking the biggest heart. We stood back and looked at it up there. “It’s good to be reminded of the rules, isn’t it?”
“Yep,” he said. “Love is always a good rule.”
“Yes, it is. It’s the greatest.”
 I Cor 13:4-7, NIV
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