A few months ago my wife sent an email to the elementary teacher of one of our boys. She let the teacher know that our son confessed to taking a piece of candy from the teacher's desk without asking. She let the teacher know that his punishment at home was minimal because of his willingness to tell the truth. Also, she let the teacher know that he was quite upset about the issue and that he had written a note of apology for her, however he was awfully scared to give the teacher the note. It's the telling that's often the most difficult. And most freeing.
We make bad decisions. We cut corners. In the busyness and business of life we fall prey to the lure of the shiny piece of candy that's so easily taken without notice. Instant gratification with risky consequences can often outweigh healthier decisions offering long-term positive outcomes. We've all been there. And, it's so easy to justify these decisions to ourselves. "I deserved what I stole," we say. "I never get recognized and it's about time I get something for me." "If you want something, take it," we foolishly tell ourselves. "It's just candy, she would have given it to me anyway." I deserve, I am due, I have a right to this, and I am owed are all lies we tell ourselves to numb our prideful power-moves to trample others and take what we want.
When the dust settles, our lies are revealed, those we hurt are painfully evident, and our takeovers aren't filling the void we thought they would - then, we see our prideful desires for the destructive narcotics they are and we know that we need forgiveness. Too often, we do not ask - as it's too painful to face. Instead, we ignore and we numb, allowing the wounds we've caused and those inflected upon us to fester for years.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is recounted by the Apostle Luke. He tells the story of the prodigal son who chose to receive his inheritance early - it was rightfully his - and went off to waste it all on the vanishing pleasures of the world. Broke and broken, the lost son decides to return home and ask for his father's forgiveness. Luke writes, "His son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.' But his father said to the servants, 'Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his fee. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.' And so the party began."
The son barely got the words out of his mouth asking for forgiveness when the father interrupted him and showered him with adoration and love, asking those around to tee up the party in store. "My son has returned." The Father says. And so the party began.
My son's teacher sent this email in return. "He gave (the apology note) to me shaking. Wow, what a brave boy! I forgave him and expressed how proud I was that he made the decision to make it right. ...He feels relieved. He has it written all over his face. We all can relate with these moments."
We carry tremendously heavy loads of shame and guilt around because we are too afraid to simply tell. Our pride blocks our apologies and our fear stops our returning to those we care about. All the while, those we've wronged often just want us to return. They don't want our apologies, they want our presence. Like the father in the story, they can't wait to order the party to begin and celebrate our renewed relationship. The Bible says that heaven celebrates when anyone lost is found. Let the party begin.
I'm thankful that my son goes to a school where teachers respond to the return from his prodigal journey with nothing short of grace and forgiveness. May we do the same.