Sunday, July 28, 2013

My Forgiveness Box

My Forgiveness Box

Peggy K. Mack

July 28, 2013

 Today our Pastor's sermon was about life and failure.  I listened as he explained that the Bible is filled with individuals who failed.  Simon Peter swore to Jesus he would never deny him and he did that three times in one day!  There are no individuals living who have never failed, so though we do not like to accept it or admit it or even think about it, we all fail.

The question then is; What do we do with our failure?  For many of us we may pray about it and then continue on as if there are no next steps, but there are!  The most important one is to admit our failure to God and to ask Him to not only forgive us but to protect us from doing the same thing, again.  We have to return to a close relationship with God.   We have to apologize with true contrite hearts for the damage we have caused due to our failure or our sense of failure.  In some cases, when you go back to truly apologize, they have already forgiven you or may even tell you that there was no need to forgive because they feel nothing wrong was done to them.  We have to re-establish a close, personal relationship with Christ to see our failures and to become better Christians.

I taught my Kindergartners when they said "I'm sorry", that they also had to say  and "I will not do it, again."  To be truly sorry we must realize that our actions cause pain or sorrow and if we are sorry, how could we want to hurt someone, again?  

Failure is the best teacher in life.  We learn more from failing at something than we ever do with success.  It is the open door to new thought, new life styles, new relationships, it is, in fact, an open door to a new opportunity.

One year in my summer preparation for  my class of five year olds, I discovered these wonderful, little packages of erasers in different styles of all kinds at the Dollar Store.  They were colorful, small and easy to handle and store.  I used them to teach forming patterns and basic addition or subtraction.  The children loved working with them.  When we didn't use them, I stored them on a shelf in the kitchen area with other math game materials.

One day when the children were all gathering on the group rug, I noticed a child had one of the football erasers.  A few moments later, I spied a soccer ball eraser in another child's hand.  I paused for a moment and thought.  Hmmm...I wonder what is going on here!  I called one of the children up and asked for the football.  I inquired where he'd gotten it and he would not answer.  I got the same result with the other child.

Then I took a marker from my dry erase board and drew a big empty box on my board.  Suspecting there was a tiny conspiracy going on, I quickly figured out a way to get to the bottom of the "straying eraser mystery". 

I began telling the children that the large drawn box was a very special box.  I said, "I have a feeling several of you have something that belongs to me and you feel badly about taking something that isn't yours.  I am sad because if I don't get my missing erasers, none of us will be able to have fun math time on Friday.  If you raise your hand and show me the eraser, I will be happy to put the eraser back in the box, and put your name up here in this very, special box.  When we finish, something amazing is going to happen!"  The children in the past, on occasion had seen one or two names on the board of children who needed to "think and have a second chance."  But the big empty box connected to a surprise was new!

  Two or three readily hopped up and delivered the eraser they were holding in their tiny fists. "Oh! Thank you", I would tell them."I am so proud of you!"  Their names went in the box and I said, "You are going to love this surprise!"  Soon seven more children followed hoping for a great surprise.  Then I asked, is there anyone else?  There was silence for a moment and then a little girl said, "Christina did this.  She got the erasers out.  She's the one who gave them to us."

  I looked at Christina and in her defiance she crossed her arms and scowled at the group as if they had betrayed her.  Her lips were tightly pinched together and I could tell she was going to be a tough one.   So I said, "Christina, I promise this forgiveness box is amazing."  She did not budge.  So with that I said, "Would all of you who were honest about your mistake and have your name in the box, please stand up?"  The nine little children who returned their erasers stood in anticipation.  I began with," when I was little my mom taught me about forgiveness.  It means you did something you shouldn't and  you are sorry.  But the best surprise is this!  if you are really sorry, you are forgiven and this is what it feels like!"   I took the eraser and slowly wiped their names off the board.  Then I said, "I thank you for doing a very good thing by returning my erasers and .....I forgive you!  You are not in trouble with me and I won't need to send a note home.  You are forgiven! Then I hugged each child and smiled at them.  They were so happy!

Then I said to Christina, I want you to think about how good this feels.  I will draw a box just for you if you want me to after lunch.  She did not budge after lunch and I gave up on that approach for her.  I visited her mom after school, shared the story and asked her if she could talk to her.  Christina was defiant.  She was not interested in forgiveness.  Her plan to give away the erasers by sharing some and taking the rest was a failure.  I could not force her to accept her mistake or to ask my forgiveness.  She had to be willing to be forgiven.  I thought for certain that she'd never budge.  But on Friday, she drew her own box and handed it to me.   "I'm sorry", she said, "and I won't do it, again"

  I hugged Christina and smiled at her and told her she was an amazing little girl. You are forgiven and I am not mad!  You did a very good thing in saying, "I'm sorry" and I know you won't do it, again.  When she returned the erasers we were able to have our fun math Friday.   The class learned a whole lot more from those erasers than just our math patterns and so did I.  

When I went to the teacher's work room that day with my classroom assistant she told everyone there of the "Forgiveness Box". I knew it was truly a gift from God.  I was in a pinch with 22 of his precious, impressionable little five year olds and the problem was in my hands.  I knew God was with me that day and so did Mrs. Limberg.

Whatever you have that is gnawing at you, causing you to have feelings of regret and you cannot let go of it or cannot forgive yourself for doing it, accept that we all fail.  It serves a purpose.  If you begin by acknowledging that we all are human and fail, then you can decide what you want to do with the failure.  Renew your relationship with God and promise never to commit that sin or failure, again.  It will feel wonderful and it frees you to love and serve God with all your heart.

Matthew 6: 9-13
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.
For thine is the kingdom and the glory.

 “For nothing will be impossible with God”
-Luke 1:37

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” -Philippians 4:13

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” -Proverbs 16:3

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