“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you,” Ephesians 4:32
Mississippi is known for being indecisive when it comes to weather. At the beginning of February, the weather decided to warm up to 75° one morning. With it being so nice, Roberta and I opened the screen windows and the back porch door while we ate lunch with Vivian. We enjoyed listening to the breeze and the birds chirping outside before a storm that was arriving the next day. After Vivian was finished eating, we let her out of her chair and let her play for a few minutes in the living room before nap time. At one point, I couldn’t see her and figured she was headed toward the porch. She loves running back and forth from the screened-in porch when the door is open.
Suddenly, the wind started to pick up. Fearful that the wind would slam the door while she was close by, I ran towards it. As I ran, I could see her little hand in between the spacing of the door frame and the wooden door. The door started to slam shut and in my panic, I ended up falling! My feet went out from under me like a cartoon character slipping on a banana peel. As I crashed, my foot bumped the door, causing it to shut on Vivian’s hand! Don’t worry, it didn’t slam shut – it wasn’t nearly as forceful as the wind would’ve been.
Vivian immediately let out terrible screams that I had never heard her make before. She’s a pretty tough kid and doesn’t react much to pain, so of course, my imagination got the best of me. As I was coming to my senses on the floor and before I could see her hand, I imagined her little fingers on the ground, while the Natchez Democrat would read the next day, “Local Pastor arrested for severing toddler’s fingers". Don’t worry! Vivian still has all her fingers! I reached for her hand to see the damage while she wailed. There was no blood, but her hand looked like it had been trapped in a beehive. It was massively swollen, hot to the touch, red and purple within seconds.
Still being rookie parents, we called the pediatrician (who just happens to be a church member) and he ordered us an X-ray for her hand. I loaded Vivian up in the van, who at this point had calmed down some, but was still groggy and crying. Once we got to the hospital and were called back to X-ray room, Vivian was fine UNTIL she saw the X-ray machine. Terror danced all through her body as she energetically flailed about while the X-ray tech and I held her down so they could take the picture. She had a look of betrayal on her face, as if I had taken her there to harvest her organs! About two hours later, the doctor called and said that everything was fine, nothing was broken, but that her hand would be sore for several days.
What a learning experience for a “newer” parent! The entire ordeal made me feel terrible. I was my own worst enemy. I was beating myself up left and right for doing that to my daughter. Roberta did a wonderful job making me feel better and now over 3 weeks later, does Vivian hold it against me? Not one bit. Does she love me any less? Nope. Has she forgiven me? Absolutely. In my sinful ways, I kept thinking: “What if she remembers this? What if she’s angry with me for a long time? I’m so stupid for falling down!” Now granted, I do have her age on my side. She's so young she’s already forgotten it happened. However, the biggest lesson I learned in this experience is that I need to forgive myself. We’re often guilty of not allowing ourselves to move on when we make mistakes. What did Ephesians 4 say above? “..as God in Christ forgave you.” Forgiveness is a beautiful and unnatural thing. Forgiveness doesn’t originate on our own. Forgiveness is a gift from God, a glimpse into eternity. Read Genesis 33 sometime this week if you don’t believe me and learn what Jacob says of his brother Esau who forgives him after they’ve been separated for 20 years.
If Christ has forgiven you, surely you can forgive yourself over the mistakes you’ve made, whether accidental or intentional. But we aren’t only called to be recipients of forgiveness, but also GIVERS of forgiveness. “For it is more blessed to give than to receive” Acts 20:35. I know that Christ has forgiven me for all of my sins: past, present, and future. I know Vivian has forgiven me for the door incident. Therefore, I can forgive myself too. Who can you forgive this month? Start with yourself and thank Jesus Christ that He has forgiven YOU. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain” 1 Corinthians 15:10.