Every time I think back to that autumn afternoon I feel a surge of pain. If there were a way to remove it and start again, I would do it.
It was late in the day, and the children had just bounded into the tiny foyer of our German row house. The bus had dropped them off at the outermost edge of our housing complex, and they enthusiastically, energetically tumbled into the door. The school day was over, and they were glad to be home. They would have their after-school snack and hurry off to play. The tight space of the entryway was hardly big enough for one adult, much less three exuberant children. The green tile floor, the sheer curtains, the mahogany shrunk became the stage props for the drama about to unfold.
The momentum was ahead of me. I had not finished the last thing that needed to be done before they came home, and I was battling a measure of frustration both with myself and with the clock. Though the table was set with milk and cookies, I was not there to greet them when they turned the knob.
As I sighed and emerged from ironing in the basement, I saw staring at me the unwelcome sight of everyone’s coats, shoes, and backpacks tossed recklessly in a heap on the tiny amount of floor space, thus blocking any hope of pathway to the front door.
My mind went into overdrive. “How could this be? They all knew this was wrong. They knew this was against house rules, and it was not the first time this had happened. A pattern was developing, and before long this would be a habit. There is not enough floor space for all this stuff. What if we had a fire? We could never make it out. All three of them are old enough to know better. We have rehearsed this countless time. They are just ignoring me. Something must change.” Though this occurred nearly thirty years ago, I can still feel the tension. Adrenalin and aggravation formulated a plan that to this day I regret.
So, (and here is the moment that I would take back), I proceeded to exercise my parental authority and with ceremonial emphasis, I tossed each coat and each backpack out the front door and onto our small porch. Toss being the operative word. There. Backpacks and coats and shoes are to be placed in the closet and not on the floor, right? This is sure to solve the problem. Good.
Then this little girl turned the corner and with a look of horror said, “But Mommy. My. Clay. Art. Project. Was. In. My. Backpack. We got to bring them home today. I couldn’t wait to show it to you.” In her plaid dress with hair pulled back with barrettes, she opened the front door and retrieved her bulky German backpack from the mass heap. Heaven and earth stood still as she slowly pulled out the two halves of what once was a child’s work of art.
“Oh dear Jesus, what have I done? She made a mistake, and I made a mountain out of a molehill. Oh the pain I have caused for wanting to teach a lesson. Her precious art project is the victim.”
Kneeling down and wrapping her into my arms I said, “Sweetheart, I am so, so sorry. Will you please forgive me? Please, please forgive me. I was way too quick and I was wrong. I love you so much.” Her pure, gracious response of, “I forgive you, Mommy,” moved us forward into the kitchen where we worked arduously to glue the object back together.
As long as we lived in that house, the item held a place of honor on the shelf in her room. She was so very proud of it, and never mentioned the incident again. That spoke volumes to me.
From time to time, alone in her room, I would look long and hard at the childish artifact, and again feel so childish myself. The crack, imperceptible to any but me, reminded me of my humanness and and her graciousness.
Mothers don’t always get it right. When we are wrong, we must admit it. When we offend, we must ask for forgiveness. Relationships can thrive in an environment of love, grace, and forgiveness, even when we wish we could rewrite the script. What can’t be taken back can be taken over by The Holy Spirit of God. He alone is able to redeem our mistakes and help us move forward. “Forget what lies behind and look forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13)
Question: What incident in your own life do you recall that can't be taken back, and needs to be taken over by the Holy Spirit?