Our youngest son Caleb was almost 4 years old when we took a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC. Our beautiful vacation had come to an end and we finished up our last day with a robust breakfast of eggs and bacon. With bellies full, all three kiddos were loaded into the momma minivan for the road trek home. Now, a road trip for the Nelson clan would include any ride lasting more than twenty minutes, as the whines and cries come quickly thereafter…’Are we there YET??’ But for this venture we had borrowed some portable DVD players, so Scooby Doo would be providing some relief and respite for this two hour trek. Yes, the road was ours, and it was a gorgeous day for a drive.
I noticed from the get go that Caleb appeared a bit out of sorts. He was very quiet (odd for him) and would let out a whimper from time to time. At about the half way mark I asked if anyone needed to use the bathroom, as the town of Shelby was in sight. Caleb said that he needed to go, so into the good ole’ Chick-fil-a we went. We scurried our way to the bathroom in back and I took him into the ladies room with me. The quarters were quite small and as Caleb and I pushed open the door, we were met by a beautiful young girl about three years old herself. She had a stunning white and pink dress on, complete with tulle and ribbon flowers, with lace and frilly socks to match. Her hair was golden with fresh curls pulled back in a satin pink ribbon. She could have been on toddlers and tiaras. Mom too was all gussied up and gorgeous in her own striking dress with heels that I would break an appendage in. As these lovely girls were primping in the mirror, I tried to maneuver quickly around them to the nearest stall. What happened next came straight from a mother’s horror flick…..a nightmare indeed, which seemed to play out in agonizing slow motion. In a blink and with NO warning, Caleb projectile vomited every last ounce of his morning eggs and OJ. This colorful combination of filth found its way directly on to the back of this young girl’s perfect dress, and even dripped from the frills on her socks. Pandemonium quickly ensued as both mother and daughter were wailing in disgust and protest. All I could do was plead and beg for forgiveness…’Oh..I AM SOOO SORRY!!’ I felt utterly helpless as I watched this poor mother frantically trying to remove the vomit that now covered the back side of her daughter…it was even in her hair. It was a truly horrible moment. As Caleb himself started to cry uncontrollably, I just kept repeating over, and over, and over, how very sorry I was. A Chick-fil-a worker came rushing in as it was quite a scene. She was an older woman and she too chimed in with disapproval…’Oh my, you poor, poor girl…’ She then turned and gave Caleb and I a glare of complete and total condemnation. By now my voice was raising and cracking into tears..’I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’….There was no acknowledgment whatsoever of my pleas. There was crying all around, and Caleb and this little girl had reached a fever pitch. And then I just exploded, right there in the bathroom. I had my own projectile vomit come out of sorts as I screamed at a volume that I did not even know I was capable of…’HE IS JUST A LITTLE BOY…..FOR THE LAST TIME, I AM SORRY!!!!’ …..Total silence followed. I scooped up my toddler and hightailed it out of there…
Some things truly seem impossible to forgive.
True forgiveness can be a tricky concept. Some people feel that a sincere and genuine apology must be made by the one who has hurt or offended them before they can extend this gift. Many people spend many years, if not much of their lifetime, resenting another for a hurt or pain that they have not been able to release. I know I have felt certain that I have forgiven an offense, only to play it over and over in my head and still drudge up feelings of resentment for that person. Holding on to any resentment at all is like clinging to a piece of cancer, and it soon spreads like wildfire and leaves brokenness and bitterness. The one who cannot forgive, is the one who is hurt the most. Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness, it is the mark of a humble and submissive spirit and heart before an almighty God. We are called to be peacemakers in a world that is not ‘fair.’ If you truly want peace and joy in your life, then you must give up your ‘right’ and ‘need’ for a fair life. You will be hurt, you will be disappointed, and you will cry tears of pain….sometimes at the hands of those you love. . It happens to all of us. What you do with the offenses and hurts is what makes all the difference in the world.
The greatest and most exceptional picture of true forgiveness can be seen in the life of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ was mocked, ridiculed, beaten, and despised by the very people whom He loved and came to save. His hands only extended true beauty and grace, as He healed people of their sickness and pain, and yet those hands were pierced with mankind’s jealousy and hatred. His words were like cleansing balm to the brokenhearted and He extended love to all who were willing to accept it, and yet His name was and is belittled and blasphemed on a regular basis. And yet as He hung on that brutal and torturous cross, He did something that is not even humanely possible. He cried out to Father God to forgive those who had hurt him the most. He called out forgiveness to His very executioners. They were not extending any kind of ‘true’ apology His way at all, but He was extending true mercy and forgiveness,…in full measure. What an astoundingly beautiful and gracious Lord He is. He has not changed a bit, and continues to offer forgiveness to anyone who calls on His name. We are not worthy, and yet He loves us deeply. We are to extend mercy to others, just as He has done for us. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you….Ephesians 4:32. …
As I peeled out of Chick-fil-a that afternoon, I was not truly sorry at all for the events in the bathroom. I might have yelled it countless times that I was, but somewhere in the chaos I stopped feeling sorry and started feeling plain mad. I was certain I was justified in my feelings, since Caleb did not MEAN to vomit all over that sweet girl. Now I have had much bigger offenses and issues in the forgiveness category to deal with through the years, but it is funny how this is the one that God put on my heart to share today…. I realized that my heart was not right, and I asked God to forgive my anger and resentment over it. As I prayed out loud in the car shortly thereafter, I felt a release of the anger and a true peace come over me. I wished I could go back and find that mom and that little girl. I wanted to tell them that I was truly sorry, and that this time, I meant it.
Today is the day to extend compassion and forgiveness….no matter what.
Yep, that’s Caleb up there at the top of the post. Who could stay mad at him??!!