Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What My Daughter Taught Me About Forgiveness

"...and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

“For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins."
~ from Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 6:12-15, NET ~

So there's this bully...

How many of us have a story about our child that begins this way?

For some reason unknown to us, there is a girl who has had my daughter in her crosshairs since the second half of last school year. 

She has known my daughter since they first attended our local grade school together years ago. Despite having reached out to her for play dates when they were in an after school activity together in second grade, both she and her mother acted uncomfortably awkward towards us. We got used to that over time, with many people. My daughter's behaviors and oddities left her pushed further to the margin each school year until she had few, if any friends. Ultimately, she found that some boys were willing to include her, but even that waned over time.

That's why the start of high school was such a blessing. My daughter found herself making new friendships with girls who shared her energetic personality. We welcomed them into our home and suddenly, "mom's taxi" was running full tilt as these girls met outside of school to have fun together.

There was only one problem — The bully was close friends with at least two of these girls, and she was not going to have my daughter moving in on her friendships. The abusive behavior began with nasty remarks, then continued with excluding my daughter from activities. It then escalated to purposely spilling beverages on my daughter and mocking her at sleepovers. 

The heartbreak of waiting all of these years for just a few friends came to head at homecoming a couple of weekends ago. Since none of them had dates, my daughter suggested that they all go together as friends. As her excitement built, she wanted to get the girls together to go dress shopping. I was more than willing to drive them all with my oversized SUV. The day they were all supposed to go, the bully got her mother to take them all instead, exactly one hour before my daughter was finished with her shift at work. The night of homecoming, my daughter was excluded from the dinner with her friends, and had to find some girls who pitied her enough to let her tag along for the night. 

As a mother, these times when our children's differences stick out like a sore thumb are bonecrushing. I wept with her for hours over the weekend once she had returned home.

But despite all of this, I have learned and continue to learn from this dynamic little beauty of mine so very much about the heart of forgiveness. You see, in all of this she has forgiven and continues to forgive. As I clench my teeth and fists wanting to march over and have a few words with the bully and her parents, my daughter insists I stand back. The friends who went along with the bully and ditched her for shopping and homecoming, she has forgiven... COMPLETELY.

At first I was concerned that she was so very vulnerable and was perhaps just trying too hard to find a friend. With her social processing, it would be easy to have her taken advantage of. That brought me to ask her, "What made you forgive these girls? I want to learn from you." She proceeded to talk to me about teens being pressured and swayed, peers making foolish decisions because they were filled with hormones, and none of us knowing what these other kids were really living with at home. WOW! That is some kind of insight and wisdom from a person who has always had difficulty with sensory processing and reading social queues! 

Ultimately, my daughter made the decisions that something as fleeting as homecoming is not worth ending a friendship over. Relationship is more important than a mistake.

I have attended weekend-long retreats on forgiveness. I have prayed and studied over that release of offenses. I know that harboring bitterness towards others is like drinking the poison and hoping the other person dies. Yet, getting that to move the inches from my brain to my heart has been difficult. I get tripped up forgetting that I have an enemy, and that enemy is NOT other people or circumstances.

My daughter inspires me. Yes, she has born heavy trials throughout her young fifteen years of life. But she never lets those struggles become her identity. God is growing her into a lovely young woman inside and out, while still maintaining her characteristic energy and spark.

Between watching my daughter's treatment of this bully; catching a snippet of a Todd White sermon captioned, "When Christians Are Being All About Themselves" on Facebook; and attending my annual women's retreat reminding me of my identity in Christ, I have found myself confessing and resolving anew. Rather than walking in my woundedness, I am surrendering to the knowledge who I am in Christ. I am calling on the help of the Holy Spirit to stop comparing myself to others and to assist me in releasing others from how they have hurt me. 

If God can create such miraculous forgiveness in a fifteen year old girl immersed in drama, I know that He can surely do the same in a weary mama like me.

Please pray with me...

Lord, make us more resilient to life's wounds. In Christ, we refuse to let our struggles become our identity. Holy Spirit, shield us so that more slides off of us and less gets under our skin. Keep working Your good in our children so that they reflect Your glory in this dark world, and help each of us parents to do the same.

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