My children were caught fighting on the school playground. It got physical, loud and mean. She knows how to provoke. He can’t restrain his reaction.
The next morning after cereal bowls dotted with blueberries, gummy vitamins and brushed teeth I gathered my chicks on my bed. My son could not even look at her, still seething. My goal was simple: apologize, forgive, pray.
I began with a prologue on how God went to special lengths to bring them together. I mentioned how important it was to keep their connection clean, not littered with hurt.
Apologies came first. She said sorry for kicking him. He struggled but eventually said sorry, too. Immediately she smiled, ‘it’s okay, I love you still.’ So quick to apologize and easy to forgive, I envy my sweet girl.
Now it was his turn. He couldn’t. He could not look at her or forgive her. She hurt him, embarrassed him in front of his friends and got him into a heap of trouble. When I pushed he said ‘how many times do I have to forgive her mom? She hurts me all the time.’ His exasperation so palpable, triggering tears. How many times?
Finally – a question Jesus actually did speak to directly! But the answer was a hard one for my eight year old to stomach. ‘Every time?’ He could hardly believe it. But Jesus did make it clear we need to forgive all the time, every time. ‘Why, mom?’ My best sense of things, I said, is that Jesus wanted us to keep our hearts soft and forgiving does that. When we forgive our heart is soft toward others and soft toward God. A soft heart is porous – letting God in, allowing the Spirit and fruits of that Spirit out of us and into the world.
‘Otherwise I’ll have a hard heart like Pharaoh…’ he reasoned. (I love when he connects dots in the Biblical story!) I reminded him that Pharaoh could not think straight or see straight with such a hard heart, he could not find his way to freedom or let the Hebrews have their freedom.
My son started to bring it together, eyes darting between his sister and me, ‘So I need to forgive to keep my heart soft so I can be like Jesus and not Pharaoh.’ As I was about to comment he continued, ‘…so to do God’s dream for the world I need a soft Jesus-heart.’ Before I could say ‘yes’ he turned and looked at her…
‘I forgive you.’
Then they prayed for each other. He prayed for her hearing, her health, asking Jesus for another healing. I cried – what had happened was just so good. He learned his first hard lesson about forgiveness sitting criss-cross-apple-sauce on my unmade bed.
Slinging backpacks over shoulders, grabbing lunches and buckling seat belts… we were off to school. I told my son I was proud of him – because many grown-ups I know have not learned to forgive. ‘There are a lot of hard hearts out there, mom’ he quipped.
The next day my dear friend and I exchanged words of apology, forgiveness and blessing. We want to be grown-ups with soft Jesus-hearts. Today there are a few less hard-hearts in the world.