Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The forgiveness of a child

It was a typical school day morning, when, my voice raised to a high screaming pitch and decibel level that would make an announcer proud. My boys were ignoring my instructions to get out of bed, and prepare for their day at school. This was typical.

What wasn't typical was my frustration level, which was normally high in the mornings, but on this particular day, much higher than normal. So, accordingly, my reactions to them and responses were less endearing than I would have liked.

Then, IT happened. I uttered the words that I would come to regret. You know what I am talking about: the kind of hurtful words that can not be taken back once they leave our lips. The "end of the argument" words. I had failed to tame my tongue and immediately, I realized the damage. My 10-year old son was crying hard. I, with my insensitive demeanor, had not only upset him, but I had shattered his world. Nobody can inflict emotional pain on us more than the people whom we love. I am not immune to this. And I was terribly sorry.

I had to backtrack; to try to take back the hurtful words; but there was no way. I was left with only one option: to apologize.

I went to my son, more gentle now. I said, "Son, I am so very sorry. I did not mean what I said. What I said was hurtful and I shouldn't have said it, because it doesn't reflect my true feelings."

And in a very weak, pitiful voice, Rusty answered me by saying, "OK".

I said, "You know, sometimes you get upset and angry and say things that you do not mean?" He nodded. I said,"Well, that happens to parents too. I really didn't mean it."

Again, in a very pitiful voice, he said, "OK, Mama." By this time I was sitting and hugging, holding and rocking him. And he was hugging me tightly, with his head on my shoulder.

I said, " I need to ask you to forgive me. Will you, will you forgive me?"

He answered, "OK, Mama". But as he spoke, his voice was so weak, and so pitiful, that it broke my heart.

I knew that he would truly forgive me. I knew that we loved and still do love each other very much. I needed his forgiveness and he needed my apology. Without my apology, his world was shattered. With it, it was temporarily broken, but on the mend. He needed me to apologize. And both of us needed his forgiveness. And he gave it to me easily. And I am so very thankful.

I explained to him that if he would get ready for school, we would stop by a restaurant, and I would buy him a special breakfast, and we would eat together, just him and me. Hopefully, this would help to restore the relationship that I had so quickly damaged. A smile replaced his tears and we set out on our breakfast adventure happily. He made it to school and had a good day.

But this was not an insignificant incident. I don't know whether or not he remembers it. But I do. And as I remember, I still feel the hurt that I experienced at watching him hurt.

Since then, I haven't broken his heart again with my sometimes short fuse. I hope I don't ever repeat this mistake with him or anyone.

And I am so happy that I received his forgiveness, which I didn't deserve. No one forgives as easily and quickly as a child. We adults can learn from them. Especially since we were once children. What has happened to us to make us learn to do differently? Why don't we forgive as easily as our children? Is it age? Is it bad experiences? Is it because. over time, we have learned to emotionally insulate ourselves, thinking that this insulation will protect us from being hurt? Does this work at all?

I had related this story to my prayer group, and one of the ladies told me, "Yeah, we adults say that we forgive, but actually it is more like saying 'I forgive you', when actually, we are secretly thinking, 'but I am going to keep my eye on you from here on out'. We have learned as adults to do everything conditionally. We love conditionally we forgive conditionally.

Maybe we should learn from our children what we have unlearned. Maybe we should put ourselves in a position, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to forgive as easily and quickly as our children do. Will we get hurt? Yes. Will we get hurt anyway? Yes. Will we be more vulnerable? Absolutely! But, will our relationships be more rich, more abundant and fruitful? Yes. Will God be better pleased? I think so.

I think that is what Jesus meant when he said, "Come like a child".

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