Our eldest twins are now eight years old- Grace and Gage. They are eight in terms of years lived, but are pushing closer to forty in many other aspects of their lives’. Last night was a reminder of this; a reminder that I can take notes from them. That there is wisdom in the hearts of children that we adults grow oblivious to; that our hearts become hardened to.
That at eight years old, these two showed me the tremendous beauty in asking for forgiveness that I believe I have traded for the imitation of an empty, “I am sorry.”
My Grace is a talker and a writer- she comes by it honestly. She has been journaling for far longer than I can remember. My daughter learned very early that, for her, writing is a more effective way for her to communicate feelings that she might not be able to verbalize. We have encouraged this for her, and have watched it mature from tiny just-because love notes on our nightstands, to cards she will sneak into my purse or our suitcases when we go away. She writes letters of encouragement to missionaries and welcomes neighbors home from vacations with such tokens in their mailboxes. Using her spiritual gifts of words and encouragement. I cannot imagine where she picked up such things…
Last night Grace came to me with a 4×6 notecard that I could see she had written on. She asked if I would be able to sit with her so we could “talk about something that has been heavy on my heart.” We set all duties aside and I watched as her erect posture started to slouch, her eyes that were initially locked with mine became fixed on the ground, and her voice slowly became lower in octaves. Just flipping the edges of the notecard.
Grace explained to me that she has been carrying something on her heart that she has not known how to make right. That she has prayed about almost every day for over a year, and was still coming up empty handed. She then said, “Mom, do you remember when we went to Saint Louis and I was picked to help with the sea lion show?” I replied, “Absolutely! Wow, can you believe that was almost two years ago? It was one of the happiest forms of ‘you’ I had ever seen! Do you remember Grace, that out of hundreds and hundreds in the audience YOU were chosen to feed the sea lion, and help him to tricks?”
For a moment, she seemed to have her spirit lifted and then she replied, “I do. But I didn’t pick Gage.” For a moment, I was just confused. I looked and saw as the tears started welling up in her bright blue eyes. I asked her, “What do you mean?” She responded, “Gage wanted to go up there with me so bad. I had a chance to pick him to go with me and I didn’t. I went by myself, and left him behind. I don’t even think I cared that he was sad that day.” I could hear the true brokenness in her heart as she spoke the words. I then asked her how this made her feel today. She answered, “SO bad. I just don’t know why I would have done that. I have thought about maybe buying him something like a sea lion, so he might remember I am sorry for what I did that day at the se lion show. . I have plenty of money. Saying sorry just hasn’t made it better though mom.” I shared with her the importance of not feeling the need to buy, earn, or work for love and forgiveness. That these are gifts that Jesus has shown us how to properly give and receive. Reminding her of the scripture, “If it is possible. As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” Romans 12:18. I reminded her that this is what she was obediently following whether she realized it or not. It was then she flipped over the notecard, and asked me to read it. It was Grace doing what she does best, communicating through writing. It looked like this…
She asked if I would ‘deliver’ it to Gage in the morning because he wakes up so much earlier than she does. We then prayed before bed.
She prayed specifically that Gage would not just accept her “I am sorry”, but that in his heart of hearts he would be able to forgive her.
As I listened to the words come straight from the mouth of a babe I could not help but wonder what a sweet, sweet song it must have sounded like to our Father as one of His daughters cried out for His help. That at the ripe age of eight, she felt the weight of the difference in saying “I am sorry” versus “Will you forgive me?”
By the grace of God, morning came. I do not take for granted the fact that God CHOOSES to allow us to wake every morning; I hold great thanks in the sunrise. Sure enough, Gage was up and at it with me at 5:15am. I wanted to give it to him after I was completely ready for work so I could be present, completely engaged with him when I delivered Grace’s heartfelt letter.
Gage is a quick reader. He is a quick learner, quick typer, quick speaker, this list is endless. Again, I admit these are also things he may have inherited from his mama. Yet he just continued sitting with the notecard. Staring at it. Now most people would say that is because 6:00am is a little early to be taking in such heavy words, but not us. No way- the earlier the better. I sat on the couch next to him and said, “Buddy, did you read that?” with his equally bright blue eyes and with Grace’s identical blonde hair he looked up at me and said, “Yes. More than once.” I said babe how does that make you feel when you read these words?” It was his response that brought me to my knees. He gently said, “Mom this makes me so sad.” I said I know Gage; your feelings were so hurt that day. When we revisit things like that it is okay to still feel sad…” as I prepared for my forgiveness speech that I had prepared, he stopped me and said, “No mom, not sad for me sad for Grace.” I sat with that and invited him to explain more of this. “It makes me sad for Grace mom because this means she has been feeling sad for almost two years.” It was in this moment I saw the wisdom of this child. The innocence that God speaks of. It was a living example of why we are all asked to become child-like; to have a childlike faith. To have a child-like heart.
How often do we do this? We carry things that are so heavy with us wherever we go. We carry them from old relationships into new ones. We carry them from home onto a vacation. We carry them from work weeks into our weekends. We carry feelings of guilt, shame, resentment and sorrow and start to wear them as though they are accessories. What I do not like, more than that thought, is when we have traveled with these skeletons for so long that we allow them to start convincing us that they help define who we are. These feelings distort us into believing lies that were never intended for us. Nearly two years I had watched my Grace carry this and did not even know. My own child, and I did not know. Imagine what your neighbor might be carrying? The person sitting next to you on Sunday, the person who cut you off in traffic. Maybe if we could imagine helping shoulder some of this with one another, our world may feel a little more like the community it was intended to be versus a battleground as we try to defend ourselves in unhealthy ways.
Grace had woken up at this time and I called her to the couch with Gage and I. I asked her if she could guess what Gage might have said in response to her note. Wrapped in her fuzzy, pink blanket she shrugged. I told her his response and she looked almost confused. She said, “Well that was definitely not going to be one of my guesses…” I said, “honestly babe, it wasn’t one of mine either. Now can you tell me how you feel? How do you feel knowing that even in the midst of his hurt, Gage bypasses all of that without question to immediately address yours? That he truly is showing he loves you more than himself, just like Jesus calls us to.” She curled into a ball with a huge smile. In an instant Gage climbed across the couch wrapping his arms around her and kissing her all over. It was sweet to see her act as if she was incredibly bothered by that but really, there was not much resistance coming from her end… Her heart was mended, the healing would start.
I will never forget this morning. I will never forget the overwhelming awe I experienced from either of them. What it felt like to see Jesus at work in and through them. That just when I thought I knew what my role was in this situation, the Holy Spirit shows up and flips the script; don’t you love it when He does that? It also caused me to pause and ask myself, is there anyone that I need to forgive that I have not? Is there anything that has been heavy on my heart that I have not surrendered? Do I need to right a wrong, or bring anything from darkness to light? “Search my heart, LORD” was my prayer. Search my heart in the way you do my eight-year-old children; and give me the strength and humble heart of a child to face these open circles.
One of my favorite quotes is, “to forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Are you being held prisoner by not forgiving? Are the circumstances so large, or pain so deep that you do not even know what that could begin to look like? One of my favorite names for Jesus is Jehovah-Rapha, “The God who heals.” I believe this absolutely refers to his commitment to healing broken hearts. Write that letter (or notecard!), make that phone call, or approach that person you make efforts to avoid. I promise He will be with you. You may not feel like you can, and that may be very true. Rest in the truth that He can. He can, and He will.
Peace be with you.