You know the feeling. The house is quiet, the kids are playing together nicely and you’re using the moment to clean up (again). Just as you’re starting to enjoy the peace you hear the dreaded word: “Moooo-mm-mmm-mmmy!” Seven-year-olds have a way of making a two-syllable word into nine. Someone must’ve looked at someone. Or touched them. Or breathed too loudly.
One day, just recently, my son ran down the stairs screaming, crying and, apparently, dying. My daughter followed him with a smirk on her face.
I wish I could tell you how spectacularly wise my counsel to them was. I wish I had 10 bullet points on how to deal with your kids’ constant bickering. I don’t. I just turned to my daughter and told her to apologise. With a full serving of dramatic flair, she turned to her brother and said: “I. Am. Sorry!” There was nothing sorry about it so I made her do it again. “Say it like you mean it, Ella!” Finally, she said it, with just an atom of love. Her brother responded with, “I don’t forgive you.” My first thought was, “Good grief! Here we go again.” Then it happened…that still, small voice asked me, “Sound familiar?”
Yes. It does sound familiar. My son isn’t that much worse than his mother. Oh, I’ve forgiven some things. But, if I’m painfully honest with myself and God, there’s a lot I haven’t forgiven. Even worse, there are things I don’t want to forgive. Things I feel are unforgivable: stinging betrayal, blemished memories and dreams unfulfilled. Every time I feel like I’ve forgiven something, I am reminded of something else. I think of days that should’ve been my happiest, yet they were some of the most hurtful. The anger rises and bitterness seethes. My mind says, “They don’t deserve forgiveness.” But did I?
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” answered Jesus, “but seventy times seven…” (Matthew 18: 21-22)
I can identify with Peter. Forgiving is a painful process because it involves letting go. We think we are letting someone off the hook and that they’re getting off easy. It doesn’t seem fair, which is something my kids say all the time. But our lives were never intended to be fair. Jesus’ time here on earth was anything but fair. He knew betrayal. He knew intense pain. He knew taunting. He knew how it felt to appear weak. Yet, even on the Cross, he cried, “Father, forgive them.”
If he did that for me, how could I not do it for the one who has hurt me the most?
How can I pick and choose how many times I forgive, drawing the line between forgivable and unforgivable? Over and over I have to choose to forgive. I can’t offer up weak, dishonest prayers asking God to help me. Because it’s an act of the will – I choose forgiveness. Even if I have to do it over and over, and even though the memories still hurt. The scars may remain, but Jesus’ scars remained too. When my mind of flesh screams “No!” my heart will still choose forgiveness.
I tell you, then, the great love she has shown proves that her many sins have been forgiven. But whoever has been forgiven little shows only a little love. (Luke 7:47)