Embracing the Father’s Forgiveness
It was my fault. I deserved it. After all, I’d behaved just like he was behaving. I’d thrown the fits, hurled myself on the floor, yelled and screamed. My mother didn’t know what to do with me. I wore her out and consistently reduced her to tears.
When I was older, I disobeyed and argued with my parents. I knew how to wear them down. But if that didn’t work, I would just lie. Lying was my native language. I wanted what I wanted, and I was willing to do what it took to achieve my goal.
In short, this son of mine was the answer to my mother’s prayer, “I hope you have one just like you one day.” Looking at him, I saw my own reflection.
Yep, this was pay back.
Mom, have you ever had those thoughts? Have you ever thought your child’s misbehavior is your fault? Ever beat yourself up because your child, “That” child, won’t cooperate or obey? Ever felt like parenting is penance? A penalty? A punishment?
I have. I’ve listened to the enemy’s whispers. I’ve bought the lie. I’ve hung my weary head in despair. I’ve been tempted to give up. I’ve chosen to wallow in the reality of my own sin and rebellion, reducing God to a cruel “Gotcha God” — a God who laughs at my discouragement, a cosmic overlord who takes aim at me for fun, who delights in my suffering.
But that’s not the biblical God. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Allow me to digress for a moment and then connect some dots. Do you remember the parable Jesus told in the New Testament about the servant who was forgiven? In Matthew 18:21-35 in response to Peter’s question, Jesus tells the story of a servant who owed his master a debt. Now this was no small IOU. Apparently it was a huge sum, so much so that the servant fell prostrate begging for extra time to pay the debt. This action touched the heart of the master who forgave the servant’s debt.
Now hang on, I know you probably know this story, but try to listen with new ears. So this servant who has just been forgiven a huge debt leaves his master. As he is going away, he runs into a fellow servant who owes him a few dollars. A few, as in, not many. Although having just been completely released from a large debt, the servant grabs his fellow servant and demands payment.
When I read this story, I generally want to just throttle the first servant. After his own debt is forgiven, his friend begs and begs to be given more time, he pleads, but the greedy man throws him in prison. Eye witnesses report back to the master who calls the man out on his ruthless behavior and throws him in prison until his original debt is paid in full.
Hang with me a moment longer. What claims does Jesus make in John 8:12? You remember, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.” And then in I John, the same author admonishes us to “walk in the light as He is in the light.” So, according to these passages, Jesus is the Light who illuminates our life’s path.
Now, what about those dots? Are you seeing a connection?
Being a mom is one of the most important jobs on the planet—maybe the most important. Every day we are shaping the future, every day we are defining culture, every day we are making a difference. Obviously these daily opportunities can be used negatively and we see that evidence every time we go to the grocery store. Clearly there are moms who are not taking advantage of their “every day” to nurture the world-changers (aka children) God has sent to them.
Being a mom is also not for wimps. If you are determined to raise your children in the fear and the admonition of the Lord, you know what I mean. If this mothering thing were only about food, clothes, and shelter that would be easy. But it’s not. No, this mothering thing is about holding up before our children a God worthy of their praise and service, worthy of their lives.
Being a mom means being strong and being vulnerable. It means living out loud in front of our kids every day. It means requiring obedience and respect. It means explaining one more time. It means dealing with conflict. It means persevering and not giving up.
Being a mom means we must walk in the Light — the light of His love, the light of His grace, the light of His forgiveness. Walking in His Light means that we extend what we’ve been so abundantly given, what’s been lavished upon us, shaken, pressed down, beyond what we can ask or imagine, to our kids day after day after day. It means praying without ceasing.
And Mom, here’s the truth, which trumps the lie: having “That child” isn’t payback. It isn’t punishment, or a penalty, or even penance. Having “That child” is a privilege.
Our being able to parent “That child” begins with our acceptance and embrace of our Father’s forgiveness.
A recent reading of Augustine’s Confessions has been a sobering reminder of just how sinful I was in my childhood. Many would chalk up the sins of youth as trivial or thoughtless. Many would say that the wrongs done during a time of immaturity should be overlooked as a right of passage, just foolishness to be endured as we travel through our younger years, having no real consequence. But that isn’t true.
The Bible teaches that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. If a father loves his son, he should discipline him. “That child” should be taught diligently. So evidently, childhood’s behaviors can reflect deeper issues of the heart, issues which need to be dealt with through the discipline of a loving parent.
When you get down to the fundamentals, it’s simple truth. Yet all too often we don’t acknowledge it. You cannot give what you do not have. For example, I cannot give you a horse, or the moon, or one million dollars. I might want to give you one of those things, or maybe even all three of them, but I can’t. My wanting to and your desire for me to give them to you cannot override the fact that I don’t have those things to give. No matter how much I want to. No matter how much you want them. Neither of us can change the fact that since I don’t have them, I cannot give them.
What you Have Not Received
The physical example of things is easy enough to understand, but it works the same with intangibles, like love and forgiveness and grace. You see, I cannot give you what I have not received, what I have not embraced. This is not to say that love, forgiveness, and grace are not available to me. No, they are readily available to everyone through the person of Jesus Christ from God the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. These three, and others like them, are available, pressed down and running over. In fact, many of us would say that we have accepted and received these from the Father, but if that is so, then why aren’t we walking in them?
Mom, if you’ve accepted and received forgiveness from the Father, extend it to your children. If you’ve received love, give it. If you have experienced forgiveness, extended it to your “That child.” Why do we withhold from them what we’ve been so generously given? Why do we resist sharing what we have in abundance? Why are we stingy with the blessings of God?
I’m going to venture a guess as to why we do this. And my hunch is based on my own experience. I know that I was once an unforgiving and angry mom because I was like the servant. I had a debt of sin that I couldn’t repay. I’d been forgiven, but I didn’t really get it. I didn’t get the enormity of my debt, it’s hideousness in contrast to His holiness, and I didn’t get the power of His forgiveness, the completeness of it, His delight in granting it.
I’d been forgiven, but I hadn’t really received that forgiveness, allowed it to wash over me, to contemplate it’s value or it’s power.
So, when one of my kids did something, when “That child” misbehaved or rebelled, well, I got angry and incensed. They didn’t deserve my forgiveness. I considered it my right to be offended, to hold the offense against them. I didn’t get what I’d been given. Look, if you are finding it hard or maybe even impossible to forgive your children (or anyone else), then I’d suggest that it’s because you aren’t realizing the forgiveness you’ve been given. You can’t give it because you don’t have it. You’re not walking in the Light of His life. If you were, it wouldn’t be so difficult.
Look, when you get what you’ve been forgiven, you cannot help but look for opportunities to forgive. When you get the grace, the gift of salvation given which you neither deserve nor earned, then you cannot help but graciously respond to others. When you glimpse the love that chose to die on Calvary to pay your sin debt, the perfect sacrifice for your ugly, small, secret, overt, denied and deliberate sin, then you look for others to love unconditionally, extravagantly, and persistently. When you get what you’ve been given, you are driven to give it to others. You’re not driven by compulsion. You won’t have an I’ve-got-to-do-this obligation. Instead, you will have an inner desire to share out of the overflow of unearned abundance, abounding blessings, and bountiful gifts. Salvation is yours, but now you want to share it with others.
Mom, do you know this kind of forgiveness, this kind of love, this kind of grace? When did you last consider all that you have been forgiven?