Recently I rehashed a failed parenting moment with a friend. Reese and Brooke had been aggravating each other for an hour, and my patience already had wore thin. Brooke had the audacity to look at -- not even touch, mind you -- a small sticker book that Reese recently had been given. Reese pounced.
"Do not touch my stickers!" she yelled.
I saw her raise her arm.
"Do not hit your sister!" I warned.
Warning disregarded. Reese swung hard, hitting Brooke across the back, and added a second whack for good measure.
I was livid.
I remember yanking Reese off Brooke, forcibly directing her upstairs by the arm for time out, and shouting something like, "If these stickers are going to cause you to hurt your sister, then you won't have these stickers. We'll never have stickers again if this is what happens."
Then I maturely ripped the sticker book to shreds.
When Joel walked through the door a moment later, I only can imagine what we looked like: Reese shrieking over her ruined stickers, Brooke wailing because she had been hit, and my face flushed with the anger I never knew resided in my heart until I had children.
It was so ugly.
It was Mother's Day.
Seven hours prior the girls had delivered a waffle, my favorite orange juice, and homemade crafts to me in bed, where we had snuggled and talked.
Such a long way to fall.
After the ordeal I sent myself to my room and cooled off until I was no longer a threat to anyone's well-being. Then the deep disappointment settled.
When faced with a situation that provoked my anger, I had acted no better than my six-year old had when she was faced with a similar situation. How could I expect her to behave well when I couldn't even manage my emotions as an adult?
What an abject mess. I wanted to crawl back into bed.
Once a healthy amount of time had passed to buffer ragged emotions, Reese and I sat down together to talk. We discussed what had happened, what should have happened, and what we need to do differently when someone angers us in the future. We apologized and asked forgiveness.
Even weeks later as I reviewed the details with my friend, my anger surged when I visualized Reese lift her arm against Brooke. My disappointment surged when I visualized how I had reacted -- with immaturity instead of wisdom, with roughness instead of patience.
That night I realized that although I had made the situation right with Reese, I never had made it right with God. Forgiveness of sin is the most basic principle of Christianity -- the element that separates it from all other religions -- and I had forgotten to ask for and accept that forgiveness.
Forgiveness isn't about letting enough time pass so you no longer feel the sting of your wrongdoings. It's not about brushing bad behavior under the rug or convincing yourself that you had meant well. It's not about overcompensating with better deeds in the future.
When we're forgiven by God, we're washed entirely clean. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us (Psalm 103:12).
That's a clean slate, a new start, a fresh canvas. There are no strings attached. It simultaneously frees you from the past and spurs you to do better in the future.
It's found in no one but Jesus.
And, surmising that I'm not the only one who's behaved badly at one point or another, I must share that this forgiveness is available to anyone who puts his or her trust in Jesus.
I can't imagine life without forgiveness. God's not about beating people up; He's about restoring them. Let that truth settle.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
I'm not ashamed to admit how much I need this cleansing. It's there for you, too, just in case you've torn any sticker books apart lately.
Especially if you've torn any sticker books apart lately.