Friday, November 4, 2011

FORGIVING OTHERS - Part 1: Charity Begins at Home

"...Forgive, and you will be forgiven."  (Luke 6:37, NIV)

Recently, I have had the great privilege of recording a presentation for the Inclusion Fusion Pajama Conference on "Bathing in the Healing Power of Forgiveness".  If we can have an honest moment here, let's agree that it's always easier to bloviate on in great speeches about forgiveness than to practice it.  And yet, we also need to candidly admit that forgiveness is a value we would like each our children to espouse as they grow.

I will go to my grave saying that God always keep me "on the short leash" because He knows I am prone to wander off in my own foolishness.  And so this was no less true when my presentation was posted for Inclusion Fusion.  Lest my head become immensely fat for being included in such a wonderful conference, the Lord humbled me by putting to the test all that I had professed in this talk on forgiveness.  For the past month, we had thought that my youngest daughter had misplaced her new cell phone in her unbelievably messy bedroom.  After cleaning it up and searching every corner of our home and cars, I took a gander at our billing detail online.  Much to my sadness and dismay, I found that while the phone was missing, it had been used with hundreds of dollars in apps and phone calls added to it.  Sadder still was the fact that in putting together the numbers that had been called and the last time we all remember seeing the phone, I was 99% certain that the phone had been stolen by my daughter's friend.

The first thing to do in a situation like this was to pray.  Only by the power of the Holy Spirit could I walk uprightly while feeling such frustration and anger.  It was essential to not lose my cool or act rashly in this situation.

The next thing to do was to come up with a plan of attack for dealing with the situation.  Fortunately, one of my friends with older daughters had been through this before.  She advised me that if I contacted the cell phone company and told them that the phone had been stolen, they would write off the charges.  That was useful information, but I felt that wasn't where the situation needed to end.  I definitely sensed that we had to draw a boundary between my daughter and this friend until the matter was resolved.  As my daughter's special needs include social deficits, she is particularly vulnerable in a circumstance like this.  I went to the school's principal and special education teacher to inform them of what had happened.  While it didn't involve the school, I wanted to be sure that they were aware in case any repercussions arose.  The principal thanked me and advised me to go to the police, which I intended to do anyway.  It gave me the sense that there was perhaps more to the story than I was aware of.  When I did go to the local police, I found myself wrestling out the situation along with the officer.  He had told me that unless the phone was found, the theft would be very hard to prove.  He encouraged me to go to the girl's father taking an approach that "perhaps she picked it up accidentally".  I was reluctant because of several serious things in the home that could make confrontation dangerous.  Nevertheless, the officer gave me a police report number to pass on to the cell phone company for my billing adjustment.

Like every married couple, my husband and I can have differences of opinions on how to deal with such matters.  This was no exception.  I called my husband to update him on the situation, and he seemed uncomfortable with some of it.  Nevertheless, he did make a phone call to the little friend's dad.  Much to my surprise, he didn't beat around the bush.  He came right out and said that our daughter's phone was missing and that he believed this other man's daughter knew something about it.  The two of them agreed to sit down and talk about it the following evening.  Equipped with the phone bill and not shrinking back from his accusation, he went to the other family's home and surprisingly got a full confession from the friend.  She had, in fact, stolen and abused the phone.  While she did not readily have it to return (it remains dead and currently not functioning), my husband insisted that she get it back to him and also apologize to our daughter.  The father also assured us that he will reimburse us for all costs if the phone company will not write it off.

Wow!  So, the question upon his return home and recounting of the conversation begged the question, Where do we go from here?  How do we approach this with a child who is searching for acceptance and who deeply struggles with social skills?

We sat our little daughter down and began to practice what we preached.  Forgive.  Our daughter was shocked and upset to find out that a friend would do such a thing.  But we encouraged her to tell this girl that she forgives her and that Jesus forgives her if the girl approaches her to apologize.  We stated that after the apology and forgiveness, the matter must be dropped.  She was not to talk to any other children about this or embarrass the friend.  Afterward, I e-mailed the principal and special ed teacher to give them the details.  I knew they could support us with her behavior.  I also set down consequences for my daughter if she did not follow these guidelines.  That it typically a strong motivator for her.

Will the friendship be allowed to continue?  I don't know.  I will need to pray about that further.  But this I do know -- Charity begins at home, whether it be with doling out donations or granting forgiveness.  I have no business teaching others about forgiveness unless I am willing to teach my own precious children the same.  I think this is a lesson none of us will ever forget!

Pray:  Oh, Father, help us to forgive as we have been forgiven.  And let that forgiveness begin with those closest to us!

1 comment:

  1. I think you handled the situation very well. Our kids watch us so closely to ensure that we practice what we preach.