Nov 15, 2011

The Gift Of Forgiveness

Our children have been privy to many of our every day disagreements.  Ones that arise from miscommunication or a misunderstanding that are quickly resolved.  I personally think it's healthy that our children see that we are not perfect and neither is our relationship and that they see us work things out.  Relationships are messy, not easy. One person is not always right.  They need a visual of how to talk through and work out problems.  As their parents, we're supposed to be that visual...when things work the way they should.  Apparently, we (I) gave them a lesson I didn't mean to.

A few months ago, Chuck and I had a doozy of an argument.  Not just a little misunderstanding, but one where we each took a stand and wouldn't budge.  We've only had two arguments this bad in our marriage and this was the second.  It was not a pretty sight...or should I say, sound.  Weapons of choice were words and tone of voice.  The kids were asleep (or so we thought), so we didn't guard our words.  It was ugly. It was the opposite of love.  It was not honoring the other person like we both promised to.  It was not giving one another the benefit of the doubt as love does. It was a perfect lesson in how not to treat the one you love.  I must confess, it was more on my part.  I used my words like daggers, my tone of voice like steel.  

However, after taking some time apart the rest of the night to cool off, God did a number on my heart. I couldn't sleep a wink.  I knew I over-reacted.  I knew I was wrong.  I knew I didn't show love and the weight of what my words must have done to my husband was threatening to bury me.  I confessed and apologized some time around dawn.  Always the gracious and forgiving one, he accepted me with open arms and a giant dose of forgiveness and left for work.

But unbeknownst to us, Bennett was awake through the whole thing.  His bedroom is across the hall from ours.  He heard every word.  My heart dropped to my feet upon this realization the next morning.  It was like being caught in your sin.  You know you're wrong and there's nothing you can do to hide or recover.  You just hang your head in sorrow and regret.  The weight I carried that day (and many more to come) was more than I could bear.

When Bennett came to see me in the morning the first thing he said was, "No kid should have to hear their parents talk like that."  I asked him what he heard and he just hung his head, got tears in his eyes and said, "I'd rather not say."  I felt like the biggest heel in the world.  He said, "Let's just keep this between us.  Gavin and Chloe don't need to know about this."  I hugged him and told him how sorry I was (which sounded too lame for what we both felt) and how Daddy and I had worked things out before he left for work.  He said, "I hope when I get older I fight like Daddy, patient and nice."  Low blow - but true.

How humbling it is to be at your child's mercy because of your own bad choices.  If I had a whip, I would have lashed myself with it over and over and would have gladly given him the chance.  I felt the burden of guilt and it was too heavy to carry.  Bennett couldn't get past it and felt the need to remind me over and over that day and the next about how sad he was and about how wrong I was.  When Chuck found out he was doing this, he talked to him.  He told him that he needed to release Mommy from her guilt so she could be free.  That constantly beating someone over the head with their bad choice does not cause growth.  He told Bennett that he forgave me and now Bennett would need to search his heart to find out if he could honestly forgive me and not mention the incident again.  

Bennett wrestled with this for several hours and then came to find me.  He said, "Mom. I release you from your guilt.  I don't want you to walk around feeling bad anymore. I forgive you.  I want you to be free."  Even writing this again brings me to tears the way it did that day.  The breath of fresh air I was able to finally breathe knowing I didn't scar my child for life.  I thanked him for the gift of forgiveness.  I don't know that I ever experienced the depth of forgiveness as I had that day.  I now know what it truly means to not be worthy of love, forgiveness and grace, but be shown it anyways.  I always thought I knew...but now I felt it.  And oh how good it feels.

Why do I write this?  Why do I want to leave this confession for my children to read when I'm no longer here?  I want them to know how imperfect I am.  How I lived at the foot of the Cross and it was only because of the mercy of God that I was able to accomplish anything in this life.  I want them to see and know that they will also mess up.  And then they will get up and move on and learn from their mistakes.  I want them to know that their best striving is not enough.  God wants us to surrender and let Him have his way in us.  Sometimes, because of our free will, we chose the harder path, the harder way to learn a lesson....just as I had done.  But if I hadn't gone thru that, I would never cherish and know the gift of forgiveness in that way.  Now I know how to offer it to others when maybe I wouldn't have before.  Now my children know that I can relate when they tell me how mad they are at someone.  I can relate my story and ask them if they're ready to travel that same humbling path or if they want to listen to my advice and give up the anger.

I take great comfort in this Psalm:

A man's steps are established  (ordered) by the Lord,
and He takes pleasure (delights) in his way.
Though he stumble, he will not utterly fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand (power).
Psalm 37:23-24

Not if I fall, but though I fall.  Not a matter of if, but when. He knows I'm going to mess up.  But He upholds me with His hand.  He won't cast me aside, shun me, accept me back only after I learned my lesson.  No, He holds my hand.

May I remember to hold my children's hands while they still live with me.  May I remember to be as gentle with them in their failings as God was with mine.  May I lead them to the one who can hold their hand for the rest of their lives.


Emily said...

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this on Momastery. I am a newlywed and learning my way through marriage and life and everything that comes with it. Your honesty is refreshing and helpful.

jensyscarola said...

Children are such amazing teachers- what a beautiful post. thank you for your words and honesty.

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