A few years ago, I got to teach 2nd grade in one of the Micronesian islands. Those of you who teach elementary grades, wherever you are—you have my respect. It takes a lot of energy and patience…and Jesus. Here’s a little story from those days:
Two dark-haired little boys glare at each other with clenched fists. Their faces are tight with anger; a dark fire in their eyes. I mentally calculate the risk of leaving all the girls unattended with a ball in the classroom. It’s P.E. time but it’s raining, and with no gym, that means we all play in the classroom. That means high potential for chaos at the end of the day. But I have no choice.
I try to leave the “volleyball” players with instructions to “be careful,” and check in with Tony and Jaydon across the room. It seems potentially explosive, but I know both boys are soft-hearted at their core. I just hope that part wins. I start trying to talk with them, but I never know what to say. All my sentences sound really lame to me, and I don’t know if it’s helping. Two other boys come over to try to calm them down. I am needed to settle some “volleyball” drama, so I have to pray and trust that the other boys can help while I work on that. I am able to get some unsteady peace there, and I see that the volcanic boys are continuing their glaring contest. Sweat beads up and runs down their little foreheads, and their breaths are short. I finally make it back and gently pull Tony over to sit down in a chair. Tears wash over his dirty face, as he desperately wipes them away. I lamely try to calm him down by telling him to take some deep breaths, but am praying for the Holy Spirit to do His work. He is the only one who can change the inside.
Amazingly, He does. Jaydon slowly, stiffly walks over. It seems to take all the strength he can muster, but he looks Tony in the eye, and through his own angry tears, quietly says, “I’m sorry.” Tony looks up a bit, still trying to stop the flow from his eyes. Jaydon reaches his hand out and puts it on Tony’s shoulder. Tony returns the gesture. It’s for real. They’re friends again.
Whenever I struggle with forgiveness, I remember Tony and Jaydon. They each had to struggle against their hurt feelings and anger to choose to forgive. Since then, I’ve learned a few more things about forgiveness. Here are a few:
1. Admit that you’ve been hurt. Don’t act like nothing is wrong, or blame yourself for being too sensitive. You can’t forgive until you admit there is something to forgive.
2. Realize that they probably do not deserve your forgiveness, but that is not the point. The point is, Jesus forgave you and asked you to pass it on.
3. Ask Jesus to help you do the impossible, and then choose to forgive. Keep asking for God to give you a forgiving spirit every time you feel that gut-wrenching emotion coming back.
4. Pray for the other person, and rest knowing that God is responsible for the outcome.
5. Be open to reconciliation with the person, but if they choose not to be reconciled, leave that in God’s hands as well.
I truly believe that the Holy Spirit is the only one who makes forgiveness possible in its truest definition, and it’s a work of a lifetime, not an instant. Be patient, persistent, and always willing to listen to the Spirit, and you will find the supernatural ability to forgive.
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:14,16)
Here’s a great song on forgiveness by Tenth Avenue North…
*Twice a month, we send out a short devotional to our volunteers. This devotional was written by Andrea Keele and sent out April 22, 2014.