My two children (ages 9 and 7 ½) were playing a trading card game outside earlier today with one of their friends. These games can get quite heated between them, no matter how many days their father and I try to impress upon them that it is just a game. They are both very competitive. At one point, my older son came running in and stated “I’ve turned into a monster!” and then went and hid in the bathroom. When I went to see what was wrong, he told me that he had gotten really angry at his brother and ripped one of his cards in half. He was horrified by his own behavior, felt guilty for what he had done, and was scared of what his punishment would be. This was not a good emotional state.
For his punishment, I told him that he should give his brother one of his own cards to make up for the one he had ruined. He said that he had tried, that, in fact, he had attempted to give him more than one, but that his brother had refused. His brother had taped his ripped card back together and simply continued playing. As far as my older son was concerned, this was not a satisfactory resolution of the situation. He wanted to force his brother to take the cards in payment. He didn’t want to accept the forgiveness he was being offered.
We adults are often like this as well. As hard as it is to forgive (and we all know how hard that can be!), it can often be even more difficult to accept forgiveness. This is especially true when we have screwed up very badly, committed some wrong that simply can’t be rectified by any means within our power. We want to keep beating ourselves up about it. We want someone to be angry with us, to hold us accountable. We want somehow to make up for it and find ourselves frustrated that we can’t. It all seems wrong. Yet, someone finds it in his or her heart, perhaps with a healthy dose of God’s grace, to forgive us. What do we do then? Do we find a way to accept that forgiveness and move forward, or do we continue to torture ourselves with our past mistakes?
The same holds true when it comes to God. Many of us, perhaps most of us, have things in our past, sins we have committed, that we regret to our very core. God offers His forgiveness unconditionally. Do we truly believe that we are forgiven? Can we accept His forgiveness and start anew? I have heard that it is a sin of pride to believe that we have committed a sin that God can’t forgive. There is nothing we can do that is beyond God’s forgiveness. We only need to open our hearts and receive it. Sometimes, that can be the hardest thing to do, but it is the only way we can truly move forward.