Thursday, December 11, 2014

Forgiveness: Seventy times seven

A few nights ago a child misbehaved and while attempting to work through the situation I kind of didn't handle it well. As in I handled it the opposite of how I wanted to handle it. Take one normal childhood misbehavior, and have the mama add in a heaping cup of misplaced anger, a dollop of raised voice, and a sprinkle of rudeness and you have the recipe for a parental fail.

Not my best moment. Not by a long shot.

Does that ever happen to you?

It started out so simple and escalated because I forgot how to behave as the grown up in the situation. I hate when that happens.
uh-oh. that isn't always good news.
I wanted to sulk to my bedroom and hide for a few days, but since I was the only grown up home that wasn't an option. The kid finished setting/banging the table and went upstairs, forgoing dinner, which was not my idea.

The rest of us ate dinner, with lots of quiet and sideways glances. They were probably wondering why everything was so weird and I was stewing and thinking and feeling horrible as a parent. I was thinking about irreparable damage to a relationship and not being the parent I want to be when things get tough and really beating myself up.

Then I thought about Christmas. Not the part of Christmas you can buy in stores. The part of Christmas wrapped in a manger. The part of Christmas that came to earth as a baby to teach us about love and forgiveness. The baby who loves and forgives us knuckleheads on earth and commands us to love and forgive one another. And knowing the full extent of our knuckleheadedness, he commands us to love and forgive one another over and over again. He said we should forgive each other 70 times seven times, which is just another way of saying a boatload of forgiveness. Because we're going to mess up a boatload of times.

As parents and children and spouses and co-workers and friends and neighbors and library patrons and car drivers and siblings and humans, we are going to mess up. And we're going to hope there is forgiveness on the other side of our mistake. We're going to hope there is grace and love on the other side of our mistake.

I certainly felt those things toward my kid who made a mistake and I prayed that the kid would feel the same things for me.

We finished up dinner, the three remaining kids and the utterly repentant mama. We cleaned up the table. I walked up the stairs.

"I am so sorry. I saw that you were getting frustrated and I didn't do the right thing. This is what I should have said: 'Hey, you look like you're getting upset. What's going on?' Or 'What can I do to make this transition easier for you?' But I didn't do that and I'm sorry. During dinner I was thinking about Christmas and the gift of Jesus and how we have such a good teacher on love and forgiveness. Jesus is so good at it and sometimes it's hard for me. But I love you so much and I forgive you for what you did. And I really hope that you love me and will forgive me for what I did."

As I spoke, the kid's chin moved away from the chest and up until finally we were looking face to face. The kid's countenance changed from shame and anger to a wary openness.

"Unless we talk to each other, we can't know what the other person wants and needs. If you'd have told me what was really bothering you or if I had asked what was bothering you, this wouldn't have happened. So, let's both do a better job of talking to each other and asking questions. Do you think we can do that?"


"I love you so much. Do you forgive me?"

"Yes. I forgive you. I love you, too. I'm sorry." 

The night went on. Board books and Christmas books and chapter books were read before bed. Lullabies were sung and prayers were prayed and kisses and hugs were given and received. I forgave my child and moved on, but I kept thinking about my behavior. I am a recovering grudge holder, master level, but I remain an unnecessary stewer over things, particularly parenting things. But even I know that I can't undo what's been done. I can only move forward.

So that's what I'm doing.

I tell myself that it's okay, maybe even good, for my kids to see me make mistakes and then admit them and ask for forgiveness. I hope I'm right.

It's messy. It's relationship. It's real life. It's grace and love after mistakes and anger.

I really wish I didn't require so much dang forgiveness. But I'm glad it's there waiting for me on the other side of my mistakes and I'm glad I have such patient teachers in my lovely children and in Jesus.


Does this happen to anyone else? How do you handle your relationship mistakes?

1 comment:

  1. Oh yes, as a coach this can happen too. And I definitely know that stomach turning feeling. When I'm having a long day during practice, I've been reminding someone to do something and they just aren't doing it, I stop and watch someone else. I can't totally quit practice just because someone is frustrating me, but I can focus on the other dancers, and come back to that person tomorrow.