Forgive Us

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To my daughters, when you are correcting your small ones,

We have our little routine down, don’t we?  You know it well: infraction, discipline, forgiveness.  You know that I never discipline you, not even with the tiniest flick on the hand, without praying with you afterwards.  Our prayer is usually very short and simple.

You say, often through sobs and tears, “Father in Heaven, please forgive me for disobeying my mom” or “Father in Heaven, please forgive me for not being joyful” or “Father in Heaven, please forgive me for not loving my sister as You commanded”.

And then it is my turn to remind you that He is faithful and just, that He forgives us of all of our sins.  I hold you and say “Now, repeat after me, ‘all forgiven’!”  More often than not, those two words clear the tears and I can see the relief in your eyes.  On a good day, I even get an extra hug, and you are off again to play.

When you are playing my role, when God has given you your own children to train, do not ever miss that last step, no matter how busy or distracted you are, no matter what  else is happening in the background.  Hold up your child’s chin and say to them “You are all forgiven!”

And now here is the hardest part: you actually have to mean that!  You have to forgive them!  Forgive them for embarrassing you, forgive them for forgetting, forgive them for offending our Heavenly Father.  If He has put their sins as far as the East is from the West, then so must you.  You may not hold on to the tiniest bit of bitterness or anger.  You say they are forgiven, you have to forgive them.

You have to forgive them because it is highly likely that they will leave the room and hit their sister again…within 10 minutes!  You have to forgive them because they will probably throw another big fit…that same afternoon!  And when you gently take their hand and lead them back to your room for more correction, you are the one who has  to have a clean heart.  Their past sin (from 30 seconds ago) is forgiven, and that means mom doesn’t remember it.  Love keeps no record of wrongs.  Their sin is gone, washed away.  If Christ’s blood is sufficient for the Father then it must be sufficient for you.

What do you think will happen if you are not forgiving your children all day, every day? If you are counting the times they have needed correction for the same offense? If you are keeping tabs on their infractions?  You will pile their sin up, where Christ has already washed it clean.  Your voice will get louder, your grip tighter, your tone shorter.  Your patience will be chiseled away.  Your long-suffering will not be long, only suffering.  And worst of all, they will not believe that they are forgiven.

“You are all forgiven!” Say it for them, and say it for yourself.  Say it to yourself if that helps, “they are all forgiven”!  And when you are talking to them for the fourteenth time about jumping on the couch, you will be able to speak to them as if it were the first time.  Practice memory loss when it comes to their sins.  Forgive.  Forget.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.”

Gratitude From Easter Sunday

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It’s Easter and the sun is bright in Kentucky.  It is the first warm day we have had in a while.  I rush around in the early morning, cinnamon rolls and ham and deviled eggs on the table, mimosas bubbling, baskets full of toys and chocolate for the children.  The time is never slow enough on Sundays.  I have hair to braid, sashes to tie, earrings, bows, tights.  Where is the other shoe?  Then there is the little man in his spring plaid, watching me throw on makeup with a skeptical eye.  I gather my babies together for a picture on the couch, while my husband rushes around, clearing the table in between photos.  Nobody will be still.  “Smile at the camera!”  I say about 50 times and give up, laughing.  We load the children in the car and rush back in the house to find the baskets and candy filled eggs.  I notice a spot on my dress. Oh well, the baby will be on my lap.  We are finally off, maybe we can make it on time today.

I glance at my beauties in the back seat. Thank You, Lord, for these people You have given me to spend my days with.  Thank You that You are with us, through these busy days and quieter ones that will eventually come, through the days of rejoicing and the days of struggle.  There is no trouble that can come our way that You have not overcome. You guide us with your counsel, and afterward You will take us into glory.  That’s the whole story.  You have given us the greatest gift: life now and life after death.  I am so often tempted to worry.  Why?! There are no days without You! There are no trials that You will not guide us through!  You are life.  There are no battles that we will fight alone, not even death.  Thank You for this Easter, for this resurrection day.

I reach over and grab my husband’s hand.  Thank You, Lord, for him.  Three times you have breathed life into our lives, through my broken body.  A man at church asks if this will be our last baby.  I smile.  Every day I wonder how we were so lucky to have any at all!  I count the number I have, not the number I imagine.  You have been good and You have been generous.

I stand on a hillside of fresh grass while a cute girl in pink gathers plastic eggs beside me.  We celebrate a Man who walked out of a grave.  A gruesome death spun a cute tradition.  You are life, You are new life.  How many mothers wept over their slaughtered sons in the year of Herod when You were born?  And now Your Spirit has spread across the world and I can spend today wiping chocolate from fat faces. This blessing, because You have risen.  This life, because You are alive.

The Compassion Of Christ

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I love Holy Week.  Ever since my oldest was two, I have read the resurrection story to my children every day of holy week, and every year I learn more than they do.  The student teaches the teacher, again. This year as we were reading about the Garden of Gethsemane, Darcy asked me why Jesus was so scared.  Why was he sweating drops of blood and asking God to find another way?  He knew he would be alive again soon.  He knew that His job had a definite end, and it was only going to be a few days.  Even though there was joy set before Him, and He knew He would make all things new through this death, He was still afraid.

I have had a similar conundrum when reading the story of Lazarus.  When Jesus arrived at his house, Lazarus had already been dead for days.  Jesus knew He could raise him from the dead.  But still, he wept.  He knew resurrection was in his power, but He still felt the sting of the death of His dear friend.  He could have come to Lazarus sooner and healed him while he was sick, but Jesus chose to wait.  He chose to subject himself to the pain of loosing a loved one.  He says it is the best way for God’s glory to be shown in that circumstance.

I don’t want to pretend like I know why Jesus did everything the way he did, but I do know that it shows us something about Himself.  Our Lord is compassionate.  He subjected himself to feel what we do when confronted with strong temptation, with terrifying situations, and even with death.  He did not just rush through these experiences, knowing that He was an omnipotent God.  He knew that he could heal and reverse death and call a legion of angels to His side at any moment.  But He chose not to.  He chose to feel what we are feeling, to withstand temptation, to endure his own death, to weep at the side of his friend’s grave.  His power is made perfect in weakness.  This is a mystery.  His love is compassion.  His love is allowing himself to be in the same kinds of situations that we face all through this life.  His love is kindness.  His love is reversing our deaths by subjecting himself to death.

On a much (much!) smaller scale, this kindness and compassion can teach me about how I lead my own children in their small, daily struggles. How many times have I been in a situation where I know everything is going to be fine but my children don’t?  They are worried, they are freaking out, and it is probably over something that I know I can fix.  How many times do children just cry because they are hungry, as if they will never get another meal?  How many times do children fall limp on the floor because my command to clean up the toys seems impossible?  Can I be like Jesus when He gently told Martha and Mary that their brother was only asleep?  Can I have the compassion of Jesus and understand what they are feeling?  Jesus cries along side them, and then comforts them with his words that Lazarus will rise.  Jesus doesn’t tell us not to worry as someone who has never faced worry. He sweats blood in a garden and pleads with the Father over his situation.  He knows the temptation to worry, and He tells us to cast it off.  He knows the weight of hunger, and He feeds 5000 people.  Can I be a compassionate mother like that?  Can I look into my child’s eyes and tell her not to fuss about dinner, but with the same compassion of one who knows how hard it is to wait? Can I hold them when they have a bad dream, and tell them none of it is real, but with the kindness of someone who knows what it feels like to be afraid?  Or do I dismiss their fears and their worries and their struggles because I know they won’t last long?  Can I find a more compassionate way to exercise my authority and abandon the answer “because I told you so”?  Am I the kind of mother who tells my children to “get over it” because I know that a scratch on their knee isn’t going to kill them?  Or am I the kind of mother who can, like Jesus, compassionately kiss their hurts, understanding that their fears are real to them, and kindly tell them that they will heal?  Can I be kind like Jesus on the stormy waters when He asked His disciples be calm while He gently calmed the waves?  Can I be kind when nobody in the house is being calm?  Can I bring the calm?

Jesus knows the end of the Easter story when He rides into Jerusalem.  He knows that He will soon be with His Father again, and He will soon conquer death.  But it does not stop Him from being afraid.  It does not stop the pain from being very real.  Knowing the end will be good, doesn’t mean the story won’t be hard.  I want to understand this in the most minuscule circumstances, in the smallest little stories that happen in our little daily lives.  Just because I know that everything will be fine, doesn’t mean I should treat my children’s experiences and fears like they don’t matter.  As they grow, their troubles will get bigger.  Can I be like Jesus?  Can they come to me with any hurts, no matter how small or how big, and find compassion even when I know they will be fine in the end?  I don’t want to raise children who are tough and independent, I want to raise children who are strong in Christ and rely completely on Him to heal their troubles.

Jesus turned to the criminal who hung beside him and said “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  This is not a comfort coming from someone who doesn’t understand the pain that is currently happening.  This is a comfort coming from a man who is hanging, dying for the sins of the world.  A man in the midst of pain, understanding the pain of the man beside him, becomes the comforter.  He gives hope, but He also gives great compassion.  He know this hurts. He knows it will be over soon.  He knows what it feels like.  And he knows everything will soon be healed.