I could see from his moist eyes and furrowed little brow he was upset.
“What’s the matter, honey?” I asked my 9-year-old son. And the emotions burst out of him like a water balloon hitting a brick wall.
“I ruined Easter,” he cried.
My heart broke for this little boy as I held him and tried to sooth his tender feelings. It had been a bit of a rough day for him. From the moment he woke up to get ready for church there had been battles. He dawdled; he played instead of getting dressed; he talked back when given instructions; he didn’t cooperate when asked to do something. It had been building all day and then after lunch, during a family game, he misunderstood something his daddy did and yelled at him, which got my son sent to a time-out. That’s when things went from bad-to-worse. A full-scale meltdown ensued. Screaming, crying, kicking the wall — you get the picture.
This of course ended the game and, since it was getting late in the day, our company decided to leave shortly thereafter.
And here we were, an hour later. Time-out ended. Temper-tantrum over. Apologies made. But this little boy felt he had ruined everyone’s Easter. This little boy who has a learning disability that impacts how he thinks and processes sometimes — especially when emotions are high. This little boy who has come so far in the last 5 years, but still has some very bad moments where he loses control. This little boy who presently sat in my lap crying tears of shame and regret.
I whispered words of comfort in his ears and promised him he had not ruined everyone’s Easter. I promised when we all looked back on this Easter in a year or two it was unlikely anyone would even remember this incident. Because, that’s how parent’s memories work, isn’t it? We have short-term memory loss when it comes to the daily trials with our children. I’m pretty sure God hard-wired us this way, otherwise I don’t know why in the world anyone would have a second child!
But when it comes to our other relationships, I’m not sure it always works the same way.
How often do we hold grudges against our spouses and hang-on to past hurts for months, or even years? How many times have we been let-down by a friend and refused to return calls or emails? And how many of us reach adult-hood carrying a catalog of faults for the ways we felt our parents fell-short?
For much of my early adult years I held-on to hurt, disappointment, and anger. I had a vault full of sour memories I’d stored — memories of broken promises, yelling and fighting, punishments and mistakes, hurt and disappointment.
And asparagus and mushrooms. I definitely remember being forced to eat asparagus and mushrooms.
Then, I had my own kids. I lost my temper too many times; I yelled, I demanded. I said no, when I should have said yes. I judged too harshly, and made a big deal out of too many things that really weren’t. And I’m not done yet. I’ve got at least another 9 years of kids living under my roof full-time and no doubt I will make many, many more mistakes, especially as we approach the teen years!
But a funny thing happened to my memories somewhere along the way. My bitter recollections from my own childhood slowly began to fade, like pictures left in the sun. And they were replaced by more vivid, happier ones. I started to remember hugs and kisses, family vacations, and laughter. I remember hand-made doll clothes and Halloween costumes, post-football game parties, and learning to drive in an empty parking lot on a Saturday morning. I remember how often they forgave me; how they kept on loving me even when I had melt-downs and talked-back and rolled my eyes. Even when I refused to eat my asparagus and mushrooms.
I realize not everyone reading this may have good memories of their childhood. Some parents are too broken to show love and forgiveness, and some just aren’t present at all. But we all have one Father that has modeled what real paternal love looks like. We have One who loves us to the moon and back and forgives us “70 times 7” (Matthew 18:22). Even when we pout and cry in frustration; when we turn away and lose control; when we get mad and show no signs of respect, He loves us beyond all measure (1 John 4:7-12). He forgets our mistakes (Isaiah 43:25). And He asks us to do the same.
Colossians 3, verses 12-15 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could love one another the way God loves us? If we could show compassion to our parents, kindness and humility to our spouses, and gentleness and patience to our friends? What if we forgave just as quickly as God forgives? How freeing would it be to have that short-term memory loss when it comes to the people in our lives and their transgressions? Then we could let the “peace of Christ rule in our hearts.” I don’t know about you, but I could definitely do with more peace in my heart.
After a few moments of comfort, my son asked me if I would come lay on the big swing in our yard with him. In a very gentleman-like fashion he brought out a blanket for me and we snuggled up together staring up at the sky and swaying as the breeze pushed us. He pointed out clouds shaped like dragons, boats, and dinosaurs. I told him about King Arthur and a sword called Excalibur. As we talked and snuggled, I prayed a silent prayer that this is what he would remember.
Please God, in 20 years let him remember this moment spent with his mom talking about dragons and legends. Help him to remember this and not how I yelled in exasperation this morning that “he had pushed me to my last nerve.” Let him remember an Easter evening spent lying on the swing and not the fight he’d had with his dad that afternoon. Let him tuck this moment into his heart and keep it there always as a reminder that above all else, he was forgiven and loved. Lord, I pray he will remember this so that one day he will do the same. That he will be quick to forgive his own children, yes, but also his wife, siblings, friends, and even his dad and me.
And Lord? May he remember that I never, ever made him eat asparagus and mushrooms.