Say "You’re Forgiven"

Ayden Reading Cadence a Bedtime Story. April, 2011.

A Slow Study

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of the company of two of our grandsons for an overnight visit. The boys, Ayden, age six, and Cadence, who is four, are cousins.

And, as family members will, occasionally they squabble. On this visit, a disagreement over whose army men were the “good guys” grew, well, animated.

Papa Rich finally stepped in and explained that “Both teams are good guys and bad guys. Your team is the good team to you and his team is the good team to him. And your team is the bad team to him and his team is the bad team to you.” I held my breath as he offered this solution then rejoiced silently as the boys accepted their grandpa’s logic.

Unfortunately, damage had been done while we were still in the “let them work it out” mode. Papa Rich asked one boy to apologize to the other for words that had veered beyond the bounds of familial civility. A soft “I’m sorry” floated across the room, tentative as a soap bubble.

Suddenly I heard myself saying to the other boy, “Now you forgive him.” And the other boy looked at his cousin and said, “It’s okay.” Boy Number One nodded and smiled. “I do.”

You’ll note I’m not naming our pint-sized offender. It’s not important to the story and no self-respecting grandmother records such details for posterity. I will, though, share with you the offensive utterance:

You’re not my friend!”

(Young children understand that love matters most of all. In their economy, disavowing a friend is a grievous, harsh, drastic step. But that understanding, and what happens to it as we get older, is a tale for another day.)

As peace once again reigned in the living room and the boys went back to staging their little plastic war, I sat, slightly stunned by a decades-long string of missed opportunities. How many times, in the course of my life, had I prompted a child to apologize?

And why had it never occurred to me before to remind the apologizee to offer forgiveness?

I will remember this crucial step going forward. How can I expect children to learn to be forgiving, and to cherish being forgiven, if I don’t coach them in learning to offer and accept forgiveness?

And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.
Luke 11:4 (NASB)

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