We were standing around the church lobby in clusters of various sizes, our community of young families: a handful of adults - and dozens of children. While we parents talked about this, that, and the rest, our children played, played, played.
If you grew up in the church, then perhaps you remember along with me the seemingly endless hours of waiting for parents to finish their adult laughter and conversation, while you waited for the cue to head to the car. And if you're like me, you and the friends with whom you grew up made the most of those endless gab sessions, by wreaking havoc in the church lobby and sanctuary.
(I confess: I remember water fights at the drinking fountain and races on our tummies, crawling under the pews from the back of the sanctuary to the front.)
A fellow mom (and dear friend) standing beside me said, "I know we should probably stop this; there's probably something wrong with letting them run all over the place. But I just love it. I love how they all know each other, how they're having such fun together."
I affirmed: I loved it too.
And then... CRASH. All heads turned to see a ceramic pillar, knocked on its side, now laying in shattered pieces.
Um, oopsie daisy. That would be my son, the one who just turned five, standing next to the crashed pillar. He is my cautious, careful boy, and yet he was guilty of the crash, boom, shatter.
He made eye contact with me, that panicked look that says, "Oh, Mommy. I made a bit of an error in judgement. Please still stand by me, come what may."
All the parents jumped to save the scene; yes, the defendant was my son, but it could have easily been any one of the crew of dozens. Glances and quiet lectures ensued, all about church behavior, being careful, and respecting the things that don't belong to us.
And after all of that, I said, "It's okay, Buddy. It was an accident."
As we gathered the pieces of the shattered pillar, one of the church pastors walked by. We snagged him to report: "I'm afraid we've had a bit of a Young Families Incident."
He smiled, "Oh, that's okay. These things happen."
"Can we do something to replace it? What should we do?"
"You shouldn't worry about it at all. These things happen, and that's what makes a church a church."
That's what makes a church a church: Grace.