You know that spine-shrinking feeling you have when you’ve been caught out at something? They have seen your wrongdoing, named it, and there’s no place to run and no place to hide. You feel exposed, ashamed. You have no excuse. I’ve experienced that sensation, and also the great gift of forgiveness extended to me afterward. The feeling of being washed clean of the rags of shame is freeing and liberating.
But too often, I’m the one pointing the finger. I’m the one naming – in my family – the list of shortcomings and failures before them. They don’t reach my high standards, and I’m disappointed. Or I place my frustration in one, such as my husband, on a child, like I did this very morning: “Mom,” she said, looking up at me from the half-landing, “You’re mad at Dad for not getting up and getting ready but you’re taking it out on me.” Yes, she was right – and I had to confess that and ask her to forgive me. She walked up the stairs and gave me a hug before going to school. I was glad.
So what’s our excuse? Pride, self-determination, fear, anger… a whole host of negative and self-focused emotions can lie behind our actions of blaming others or being overly cross when they fail us. But we’re not God; nor does he want us to be taking that rightful place from him. He wants us to extend grace and love with humble hearts. Yes, there’s an added layer of complication when we’re parents and we want to teach our children. But God through his Spirit is the best teacher of all.
That’s a thought that Oswald and Biddy Chambers held onto in their work with the Bible college they set up, and then later with their work with soldiers in Egypt during the First World War. They would seek not to guilt someone into making a decision for God, or to try to convict them about a specific course of action. They fully believed that God would do the work; they would pray and commit the matter to him and to the person. (This week marks the hundred-year anniversary of his death. You can read my short account of his life here.)
How can you trust God with your loved ones today?
Want more? My book The Living Cross shares stories from the Old Testament and the New on the freeing nature of forgiveness in a forty-day devotional format (for Lent, but it can be read at any time).