Forgiving is Hard

April 7, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

One of the most difficult things about being a mom is walking your children through life’s really tough lessons.  You can be floating along just fine, never even seeing the storm clouds gathering, when suddenly you’re caught in a maelstrom.

That’s what happened the other day with my son.  Now he’s eight and very soft-hearted.  He makes it a point to be nice to everyone (other than, of course, his two sisters).  He takes things in very deeply.  No surface living for him!

He’s also highly creative and he wants to be acknowledged for the good ideas he comes up with.  Sometimes that’s a challenge in second grade.  Okay, it doesn’t get any easier after second grade either, but we’ll deal with that later.

So the other day he gets in the van after school.  I asked how his day was, and he said, “Bad.”  Now he has “April Fooled” me numerous times coming back with “not really it was great!”  But not this time.  No, this time, bad went from bad to really bad to absolutely horrible in a matter of a heartbeat.

“Mom, Anna* stole my idea!” (*not her real name)

“What do you mean she stole your idea?”

“I had this idea to make a big card for one of the teachers from the whole class, and she stole my idea.  She told the teacher about it, and the teacher was all happy and excited and saying what a good kid she was.  It wasn’t her idea!  It was MINE!”

By now big crocodile tears were rolling down his little cheeks.

“Well, maybe she didn’t mean to steal it.  Maybe she just thought it was a good idea.”

“Then why didn’t she say it was mine.  She just let them think it was hers.”  He folded his arms.  “I’m not going to sign that big card.  It’s not fair!  I’m going to just make my own and see how they like that.”

“Now, sweetheart, I realize you’re upset…”

“And next time I’m going to steal one of her ideas and not tell anybody it was hers.  Then she can see how this feels.  I bet she won’t like it very much.”

You really can’t make this stuff up, you know?

“Listen, I don’t know why she did it, but think about it this way, the teacher really liked your idea even if she was the one that said it.”

“Yeah, but they think it was hers, and they’re all, ‘Oh, that’s such a great idea.  You’re so smart.’  I bet she’d be mad too if I took her idea like that and didn’t tell anybody. I’m going to do that to her and see how she likes it.”

That’s when I realized he was really going to need some help getting through this.  It wasn’t just a thing he was going to get through.  He wouldn’t forget it in five minutes.  This was real to him.  He was angry and hurt, and carrying that around wasn’t going to do anyone any good.

So, I said, “I think you’re going to have to try to forgive her.”

“Forgive her?  Mom!  She doesn’t deserve to be forgiven!  Besides I want to get even with her.  I want her to feel like I do right now.”

“I know, but that’s not good for you.  That is just going to make you mad and miserable.  It’s not going to change what happened at school.”

“But it’s not fair, Mom.  That was my idea and no one even knows that!”

“I know, and I don’t know why she took your idea without telling anyone.  Maybe she just thought it was a good idea and mentioned it.  Maybe she didn’t mean to steal it, it just happened.”

“Well, I’m still mad at her.”

“I know.  But I think maybe you should think about trying to forgive her–even if she doesn’t deserve it.  You know, we’ve talked about forgiveness at home.  When you say you’re sorry or they say they’re sorry.”

“But she didn’t even say she was sorry.  I don’t even think she is.”

“You’re probably right, maybe she isn’t even sorry, but that doesn’t mean you can stay mad.  It’s still important to forgive her… for you.”

“But, Mom.  Forgiving is hard!  I don’t want to forgive her.  I want to be mad at her.”

“I know.  Forgiving is hard.  That’s why a lot of the time we have to ask God to help us to forgive because if it was up to us, we’d just stay mad all the time.  But that doesn’t fix anything.  It just makes us sad and mad and hurt.  That’s no fun.  But God will help you to forgive her even though it’s hard.”

About this time the tears stopped, and I could see peace come over him.

“Just think about it,” I said.

You know, forgiving is hard.  And the worse whatever the other person did, the harder it is to forgive.  But when it’s right and you know it’s right but it’s hard, that’s when you know you need God.  God is there to help you and guide you through those rough patches when you really don’t want to do the right thing, when doing the wrong thing sure sounds easier and more logical.

But God’s logical will help you find real peace.  The other is just a long road of misery.

By the time we got home that night, my son was in much better spirits and the next day he not only signed the big card, he included his little card with it.  So maybe he learned a good lesson.  I know I did.

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An Opportunity To Learn To Love

May 10, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

There’s something about sleeping for me that sometimes plugs me into something (Someone) far deeper than I can access when I’m not prone and unconscious.  Like the other night.  I can’t tell you what the dream was about, it’s hazy and very indistinct.  But what I do remember is that someone had made life really difficult for me.  It wasn’t that I was fighting something or running away from something.  It was more that I was angry and in real turmoil at whatever this someone had done.

I remember asking angrily why God had allowed this to happen.  It wasn’t my fault.  It was nothing I had asked for.  It wasn’t even something (from my small perspective) that I had deserved, and yet here it was, on my doorstep making my life miserable.

The weird thing was that in this dream, God actually answered back.  Not like a booming voice or anything, just like a whisper in the air.  The voice said, “This isn’t really a problem.  This is just an opportunity for you to learn to love a little deeper, a little better, a little more than you knew how to before.”

I woke up remembering that line, “This is an opportunity for you to learn to love…”

Some part of me knew even then, half-asleep, that I had gained access to real spiritual wisdom in that moment, and I repeated that over and over to myself so I wouldn’t forget it.  “This is an opportunity for you to learn to love…”

How many opportunities have you been given recently to learn to love, a little deeper, a little better, a little more than you knew how to before?

Was it when someone else did something to make you mad?  Or when someone didn’t do something they were “supposed” to?  Was it a challenge in your schedule, a challenge in your life, or a challenge in your heart?  Did you want to forgive, but they really deserved you being mad at them?  Or maybe you’ve been mad at them for a long, long time.

Whatever the challenge is, I can assure you that it really is just an opportunity to learn to love a little deeper.

How do you do that?

You stop trying.

You can’t.

No. You really can’t.

That person really IS unlovable.  That person really IS too bad for you to forgive.

But here’s the thing.

You’re not in this deal alone.  If you’re a Christian, you’ve got Help.  You’ve got a HELPER, living right there inside your heart.

You can’t do it, but He can.  And He will… if you will let Him.

See, I think the challenges in our lives are really opportunities not to test OUR love (which is puny and insignificant in the face of real challenges), it’s an opportunity for us to back up and let God show us how compassionate He can be.  It’s an opportunity to let Him speak, to let Him act, to let Him be our compassion and our peace–even in the midst of trial and tribulation.

God has overcome the world, but He will not force His way into yours unless and until you surrender your life to Him.  This is different than accepting Him as your Savior.  That’s a great place to start, but I’m talking about a continual, in-this-moment surrendering of your life to Him.

Some people think when you do that, life gets easier.  I’m not sure that easier is the right word.  More peaceful and joyful, yes.  Easier?  I don’t know.

Because when you learn to do that, God will send some of the most unlovable people your way… so you can learn to let Him love them through you!

I firmly believe that this is the path to miracles.

So this challenge, whatever it is in your life, is just a cleverly disguised opportunity to learn to love.

Now I’m going back to sleep because it’s the middle of the night, and I just had to share that with you before I forgot…


Of Love and Backpacks

August 14, 2008

By:  Staci Stallings

 

The sermon was simple—at least it seemed to be.  The Gospel was the one about “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  The priest began with a discourse on the word “yoke”—as in take My yoke for My burden is easy…  He said many don’t know what a yoke is anymore (it’s not what comes out of an egg).  No, he said, “It is like those backpacks you see the kids carrying around.”

           

In fact, the books the kids carry now are so heavy they are often bowed over with the weight of their backpacks.  This is very similar to what Jesus was talking about with the yoke.  It is a burden we are carrying, and it is heavy.

           

We each have backpacks like this.  Some are filled with worry, some with tragedy.  Some hold old hopes and dreams dashed, some are stuffed with anger and hatred.  And boy, are they heavy.  They weigh us down.  They hold us back from living today.  We drag them with us everywhere.  After all, they are our backpack.  No one else is going to carry them for us.

           

The priest then said that what Jesus is saying is, “Bring your backpack with whatever is in it.  Bring it to the cross, bring it to Me.  Bring it here.  Give it to Me, and I will exchange your backpack for Mine.”

           

Now for one moment, I want you to think about your backpack (or backpacks—because the truth is, we often have more than one).  What’s in your backpack?  Is there sorrow?  Is there guilt?  Is there anger or pain?  Is there frustration or overwhelm?  Worry or doubt? What’s making your backpack heavy, and do you think it’s time to give that backpack to God?

           

One of my best friends signed up to give a personal talk at a retreat.  The talk would reveal some very painful moments in her life that no one knew about.  She was understandably nervous.  I told her that as someone who had given such a talk previously the experience was much like dragging a couple of heavy suitcases in, setting them down, and then walking out without them.  It was truly amazing how freeing it was to just be honest about how heavy things in my life had become.

           

So, I would suggest that you find a way to lay your burdens at the cross—whether that’s writing them down, or saying them out loud, or just sitting and visualizing yourself at the cross giving Jesus your backpack.

           

The next thing the priest said was that in exchange for your backpack, Jesus will give you His backpack.  When you look into this backpack, there will be only one thing—love.  Love that you are then supposed to give to the world.

           

Now I heard this sermon about a year after my brother died.  During his life, my brother had tried so hard to love everyone by trying to make their lives perfect.  It didn’t work.  It took him down when he couldn’t make the world right for everyone.  So the idea that there is only love in the backpack, and it’s your job to give that love to everyone else, would’ve sounded like a great idea at one time—noble and all of that.  But through the filter my life has now, I could see how that love could become a huge burden.

           

Instead of being freeing.  It can become a millstone, dragging a person down—even if they have the best of intentions.

           

As I thought about it, I knew there had to be another answer.  There was something missing in the backpack story.  What was missing was what I had found, what God had given me.  Because the love I had found in the backpack didn’t feel like a burden.  It was the most freeing thing in the world, but why? What was the difference?  As I thought about it, I realized the answer.

           

You see, in the backpack Jesus gives me is not love for everyone else.  It is only God’s love for me.  And that love is very light.  It says, “I love you, My child, right now.  I love you just as you are.  Come let Me hold you. I love you, and you need do no more to earn anything.”

 

And He has the same backpack waiting for you!

           

When you understand it is that kind of love God gives you, you can relax and just do your best.  You’re not having to strive to earn anything because you already have everything that matters. You can then ask for His love to come through you into the world—instead of trying to manufacture that love for others in yourself.

           

As I thought about this and about others that God has brought into my life, I realized that I don’t try to love others as God loves them.  I let God love them through me. But more than that, I show them that they have a backpack too.  God loves them just like He loves me, and when they get that, everything else falls into place.

 

See, I’m not the only one with the backpack that says God loves me.  You have one too.  So do my kids in Sunday School, and my kids at home.  So do my readers and my writing friends.  So does each of my family members and my friends. 

           

It’s not my job to love them like God does.  It’s my job to point out that God loves them like God does.  It’s my job to point out that they have a backpack waiting at the cross, that all they have to do is exchange this heavy one they are dragging around for one that is light and easy.  When they open the new backpack up, they will find God’s incredible love for them, and when you find that… an amazing life truly begins.