DM at Heart to Heart has inspired me to try to write down important life lessons as I learn them. He does a great job of creating “word pictures” to illustrate those illusive concepts we try to not only learn but to teach to our children. So in his honor I will try my best to tell this story which is a real-life event as told to me by my sister.
This week my sister called me and we talked about an incident which had occured in her small group Bible study. Her study consists of three families all of which have children, and they meet in one of the couple’s homes. The parents do a Bible study upstairs and the children typically play in the rec room. At the end of the study, my 11 year old niece approached of the other fathers and informed him the kids (ranging from 11 – 15) had been playing charades and doing improvisations. She said that his son had gotten out of hand and taken it too far. He had stripped down to his tighty-whitey underwear and acted out something. The father was astonished and horrified and made his son apologize. His son was embarrased. My sister was upset that none of the children had put a stop to his actions or immediately come to an adult. The meeting ended and everyone went their own separate ways. My sister said she was anxious about this week’s study because she knew the inicdent was on everyone’s mind and it felt unresolved.
On Sunday at church, the young boy isolated himself. This week at Small Group he muttered and hung his head, refusing to engage in conversation. He was obviously embarrased and ashamed. His parents ignored all the tension and pretended all was well. The way the Group leader handled things, however, was inspiring.
At the end of the study, the Leader looked directly at the parents and said, “how is Billy handling the events of last week? I noticed he mumbled when I said hi and won’t meet my eyes.” The parents said he was embarrased and ashamed and they just wanted to put everything behind them. After all, he had apologized (albeit half-heartedly and only at his father’s mandate), so as far as they were concerend, it was over. The Group Leader said this -
We could pretend to forget about it and let Billy continue to hang his head and hide. But to do that deprives him of the gift of grace, and deprives us of the opportunity to give that gift. As parents we have the obligation to teach our children life lessons, one of which is the gift of grace. We need to provide our children with real life examples of grace. Having Billy apologize is not for our benefit, although it is nice to hear someone else be repentent when they have wronged you. But that is a different gift. What I am talking about is the gift we can give to Billy. When he apologizes, it gives us the chance to say, “Thank you. We all mess up and I am glad you apologized. Now let’s move forward with a clean slate.” It allows Billy to lift up his head and go back to enjoying the fellowship of his friends. The alternative is to allow him to pretend to put it behind him, allow Satan to continue to torment him with the feelings of shame, have him continue to hang his head and not interact – that is punishment and that is not what we are about.
I was inspired and awestruck by his words, even hearing them second-hand. All too often I have made my children apologize for some transgression. But I have missed the opportunity to take the lesson further and teach them grace. How wonderful that our Savior offered us the gift of grace and forgiveness. And how wonderful it is to offer that to someone else.