It makes you feel foolish. Helpless. Successful. Proud. Wanting. Found. Lost. Broken. On the verge of giving up and entertaining the idea of more babies. It's confusion and understanding all in the same breath. It's too much space and not enough. It's long nights and early morning and slides and swings. Spills and blowouts, tears and blow-ups. A leak in the dam; it all threatening to bust on through on your best day. On your worst. Celebrations.
Consequences. And forgiveness.
My four-year-old (who will be a five-year-old tomorrow at exactly 4:55 a.m.) lied to my face yesterday. Twice. Blatantly and convincingly. Why yes, of course he had finished every bite of that cubed ham. We praised and freely gave the cookies. Only when we went to clean him up after lunch did we discover the truth. Cubed ham was not in his belly, as he had claimed. It was all pocketed in the bib he had been wearing to protect his good shirt.
I felt betrayal and despair. Oh, honey. Don't start doing this. Hiding truth. Altering.
Punishment came and a long talk and a nap later and we were done. Thought so, anyway. And then dinner and where did all the raisins go? "I ate all of them, Mommy! I'm not lying!" My heart broke as I discovered a handful of raisins hiding, once again, in that dang bib pocket. "They're old ones!" he tried to convince. We knew better. Back to square one. Press repeat.
I felt helpless. We've struggled with behavior lately, anyway. I've been at the end of my rope. I've tried to be extra sweet, extra patient, extra slow to get angry. We've played the nice side and we've played the "We're serious and we will die on this hill" side. Positive reinforcement, praise, favorite toys removed, favorite treats withheld, encouragement. I cried to a friend in the late afternoon, "It doesn't matter WHAT I do! Nothing is getting through!"
I felt the conviction there under my heart, but sat on it. Waited. My own words came back to me the next day and I realized, humbled, that it wasn't ever dependent on me at all. Ever. Never. His good or poor behavior is not completely, solidly, hinged on my gifts or my shortcomings as his mother. He's a little sinner who needs Jesus. And I'm a big sinner who needs Jesus and my unraveling rope means I need to let go and seek Him for wisdom.
I wilt into relief.
Over bedtime snacks and our Bible reading, I tell of Naaman who is healed and of the servant whose lies earned him leprosy in return. I could see the connections being made in his little mind. I could see the shifting, the shame in his eyes. Recognized that humbled state. My eyes seemed to reflect the shimmer in his and I looked deep and close into eyes that look so very much like my own. "We have had a lot of talk about lying today, haven't we?" I said softly, gently. My hand on his short hair. His face tilted and cupped into my hand.
"I'm sorry, Mommy. I won't do it ever again. I'm sorry." His eyes pooled. And he dug deep into our locked gaze. "Do you believe me, Mommy?" I wiped his eyes. And mine.
"Yes. Yes, I do believe you."
"You forgive me?" I heard the hope. The dream.
"Yes, honey. Of course I forgive you."
There's a beautiful branch of love and it's called forgiveness. And we cheat ourselves and each other when we don't ask for it and we don't give it. I felt it, sitting there at the dining room table with my sorry but forgiven little boy. I have felt it more than once in my own life. I'm sorry I failed you, I'm sorry I said that, acted that way, backed through the garage door. I'm sorry I screwed up, sorry I forgot, sorry I failed to take care of that one thing again.
Forgive. Forgive me, please.
Forgiveness is rescue. It's a warm coat when you're freezing. It's a hand to hold when you're lonely. Forgiveness is freedom and forgiveness is as necessary as breath and forgiveness is love. It's the very best version of love. Because love that is for ourselves is not really love. And forgiveness is all about getting past ourselves, our need for revenge, our desire to be right... to simply love. It doesn't whitewash anything. It tears it down... and starts over.
No record of wrongs. Patient. Kind.
Love... forgiveness. Love.
"... but if you do not forgive others
their trespasses, neither will your Father
forgive your trespasses..."
~ M a t t h e w 6 : 1 5