I begin telling the latest shenanigans of one of my little people to one of my friends as I always do: animated, detailed, and funny. The worse the disobedient offense, the funnier the story becomes. But in my heart, as I recount the tale of a little monkey who’s been up to no good, I know I tell the tale so I can garner some sympathy and understanding. So my friends will know what I actually go through day-in, day-out. I don’t care if you have one kid or eight like me (or more.) Being a mom is hard. It’s good to share our stories with each other. We need to know it’s hard for our friends too.
I also tell stories to make light of hard parenting days, to remind myself how cute and funny my kids can be. While it’s not always funny in the moment (if ever), it sometimes helps to tell the hard stories so we can gain a new perspective from the listener.
But then there’s this part. Sometimes I tell tales about my kids’ disobedience because it sort of feels good to tattle on them a bit. Even if it’s just to Jeremy or one of their Grandmas. After all, my day has been SO hard because of it. We can be quite dramatic, can’t we? Even though my outer appearance may not be of one who is bitter and unforgiving, God has been convicting me about a form of unforgiveness I’ve been harboring toward my kids. Maybe, just maybe you struggle with it too.
I’ve never thought of myself as an unforgiving person. I mean, I’m not holding onto any lifelong grudges, nor am I walking around as a grumpy, irritable person. Not always, anyways. Don’t ask my kids exactly how often that happens.
I know in my heart I’m not really forgiving my children if I’m annoyed by their behavior after the fact.
Am I truly forgiving my kids when I’m continually flustered they’re doing the same. wrong. things. AGAIN. and AGAIN? It feels justified when the behavior is repeated over and over. “Anyone would be upset by this,” I reason.
Am I truly forgiving my kids when I’m still upset at them when I recount the day’s events to Jeremy?
Am I truly forgiving my kids when I withhold a loving look or an approving glance in the minutes or hours that follow because I have it in my head if I smile at them they’ll think their actions were okay?
Am I truly forgiving my kids when I bring up their past mistakes or sins?
Am I truly forgiving my kids when I launch into a lecture hours after talking, hugging, and forgiving them?
Ugh. This hits hard. I wish I had this conquered. It’s probably my biggest mothering struggle. It doesn’t help that I’m mothering some kids who live with some very real challenges that greatly affect their ability to make wise choices. This makes obedience trickier. Which translates to a great challenge in patience for Jeremy and I. You’d think it’d be easier to forgive and act solely out of love and compassion since a lot of what we deal with as the parents of these kiddos is something they can’t really help. But there’s this faded wiggly line their behavior butts up against, and we can’t always tell what’s outright disobedience and what’s a result of true forgetfulness and impulsive behavior brought on by the effects of their challenges. It’s a hard reality, but it doesn’t excuse me from completely forgiving my kids under any and all circumstances.
Jesus asks us to forgive and give love and grace in exchange for any offense. I mean: any offense. No matter how many times. But when we choose to hold onto their offenses, it is now our sin that moves front and center.
Don’t we so desperately want to be modeling true forgiveness to our children? Christ has forgiven it all for us (all!), and has never once withheld His love or affection from us. Not even once.
It’s like the story in Matthew 18 of the master who forgives the enormous debt of his servant. This debt was more than the man could ever pay back, so his master had mercy on him, forgiving every last bit of the debt. After, the forgiven servant went right out, and instead of being humbled by the grace shown him, went straight for the neck of a fellow servant who owned him a little money. He demanded, “Pay what you owe.”
The forgiving master was made aware of the situation, and immediately threw the unforgiving servant (who was forgiven of all his debt) into prison until he could pay back the impossible debt.
How can we withhold forgiveness and love and grace and mercy from our children when we’ve accepted forgiveness, love, grace, and mercy from God? We can, but we shouldn’t. This realization has been trickling into all of my relationships.
Am I truly forgiving my friend? Am I truly forgiving my husband? True freedom is found when we are forgiven and in turn forgive. God has been teaching me so much. While it’s painful to learn and fail, learn and fail. Growth is happening somewhere in there too.
Growth is happening somewhere in you. Somewhere in me.
Father, we praise you for being such a forgiver. You blow us away with your kindness toward us. We want to be kind forgivers of our families. Will you help us? We need you so, so much. We can’t do this alone. Remind us to pray. Remind us to ask for help. Remind us to love like you love. Thank you for your Son who gave all, so we could receive all.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.