The timing could not have been worse. It was my first Sunday of my monthly rotation for Children’s Church. All morning, a second grade boy tried to push my button. He interrupted the bible story to inform me I forgot to pass out name tags. He just couldn’t go on without his name tag. He couldn’t find his name tag. May he make another one right now? I finally, firmly said, “I think a Bible story lesson is far more important than you having a name tag at this moment. Can you wait until we’re done?” He meekly nodded yes.
He told me he didn’t like children’s church. He wanted to go to the preschool Worship. It’s boring here. He would get to play in preschool worship. Not when I’m the teacher, I thought.
Finally the worst moment came. We formed a prayer circle, holding hands. The kids were supposed to squeeze the hand of the child next to them if they did not want to pray. Suddenly my surly second grader launched into a high pitched howl. I tried to ignore it but finally had to pause the prayer. “He twisted my arm,” the child whined, pointing to the boy next to him. I took both children out of the circle, sat them in a corner, and told them to stay put until we were finished. Mercifully, they did. Two older children offered to help me distribute parent letters and help the rest of the children gather belongings while I dealt with the two offenders.
“What happened?” I asked. My still whimpering child repeated, “He twisted my arm!” I looked at the other child. “Did you?” He shrugged. “He twisted my arm so I twisted him back.” Now I had two problems. I turned back to the first child. “Did you?” “Well, just a little bit but . . .” “No just a little bit. Did you or did you not twist his arm?” He repeated, “Just a little bit.” He would not admit wrong doing. Finally I got both children to say they were sorry. Then I committed the ultimate crime. I asked them to say, “I forgive you.” Both clammed up tighter than a clam shell guarding a prize pearl.
They wanted to cherish their grudge.
Two days later, five Amish girls were gunned down in a one-room schoolhouse. The Amish immediately and graciously forgave the family of the killer, adding action to their words by setting up a financial fund to help the family. The world was astounded, dazzled, confused as much by the act of forgiveness as by the actual slaying.
Yet I wondered why the world should be so amazed? Shouldn’t any group of Christians have done the same? All too sadly, we forget to forgive. We hold grudges as tightly as those two little boys. My husband and I once served in a church where two families sat on opposite sides of the worship service, never speaking to each other for forty years. Hardly anyone could remember what the crime was. It certainly was not for murdering their innocent daughters.
I thought back to my two little boys in worship. I have to admit I was perturbed with them. How dare they let some stupid little thing like name tags and how someone squeezes your arm during prayer interrupt my lesson and my prayer time? Don’t they realize what’s important?
No they don’t. That’s why I’m there. I’m there to teach them about forgiveness. I’m there to teach them, lovingly and patiently, that bible lessons and prayer times are important. I need to keep saying, “You need to forgive. Forgiveness is important.” over and over again. I need to explain what forgiveness is so when they become a victim, it will also be “their way” to forgive. And I needed to forgive too. I wish I had said to both of them, “I forgive you for interrupting the prayer time.”
Jesus said in Matthew 6:14, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.” It’s my prayer this week that I will be able to teach my children the importance of forgiveness through both my words and my example so that the world will be dazzled when they are called upon to show their faith in God through forgiveness.
If you would like to make a donation to the Amish families or the family of Charles Roberts. click here.