Tonight, Elysa was about to go to church for AWANA. The letters stand for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed. (A great evangelical organization for kids, here’s the link: )
Before leaving she had been playing a computer game, and right before Jan was about to take her and her siblings and cousin to church, she informed me that she had lost her badge. It goes on her approved AWANA shirt, and it says ‘Adventure!’ I believe she earned it for scripture memorization.
Well, she wanted me to help. I always try to help my children find lost things. I hate losing things myself, and I am always horrified that there are kids and adults that lose things important to them, but no one will help them find the lost item…or dream…or love.
So off we went. Our property is wooded, but she knew where she had last worn it. But I quickly realized it was about .2 miles away, and she had minutes to get ready. So, I huffed and was annoyed that we hadn’t started earlier. ‘You should have told me instead of playing!’ Standard Papa stuff; right out of the manual.
In due course, not surprising, she started to cry. She couldn’t find her badge, her father was angry and it was all just too much for her little eight-year-old brain to assimilate. Well, I whispered a little prayer for help and immediately, I mean immediately, found the item in her grandparents’ large yard. (Pray for lost things and people; it really helps!)
And then, as tears streamed, the real work started. Comforting the daughter. Given to hyperbole, she began with the standard ‘I’m no good, I’m a burden.’ I shut that down immediately. She knows she’s treasured and that’s just manipulation. But, she was reasonably upset that I was upset. So, I held her and said, ‘It’s over! You see, honey, I can get mad quickly and get over it quickly! And you’re forgiven! By the way, sorry I snapped at you. Will you forgive me?’
Sniff, ‘Yes, but I always ask you to do things you don’t want to do!’
‘Like get me ice-cream and drinks…’
‘Did I complain or fuss when I got you ice-cream or a drink?’
Sniff…wipe nose on papa’s sweat-shirt…’no.’
‘Then, dear, I don’t mind. I just want you to tell me if you need help before the last minute, that’s all. Listen, I love you! Now, say Papa loves me.’
‘Ppppapppaaa llloves mee.’
‘Good, now let’s remember. When we do things God doesn’t like, he can be unhappy with us, but he forgives us and forgets, right?’
‘Right…’ More secretions wiped on Papa’s shirt.
House in view, she bounded off for coat and Bible, then kissed me and climbed into the car.
I was a little grumpy. I’ll admit. But I apologized, as fathers must always remember to do, when appropriate!
But what a lesson. The thing is, humans are too easily angered. But God is not. Truthfully, I don’t know if we can even disappoint him, since he knows what we will do from the beginning. I mean, disappointment has to do with expectation, and when you’re omniscient, there aren’t really expectations, there’s only…what was, is and will be.
But whatever we do, the Bible says ‘if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ I John 1: 9
Done! Confess, repent (from the Greek metanoia, to change one’s mind) and move on, forgiven. It’s not cheap and easy. It’s no game where we trick God with words. It’s not the Mafia don at confession for the murder, knowing he’ll just confess the next one. It’s genuine confession and change of heart. We may have to do it more than once, but there it is.
But once we are forgiven, children, it is done. The hardest part is what Elysa demonstrated. We cannot forgive ourselves. We can forgive others more readily. But when we perceive failure or inadequacy in our own hearts, then the voice of our enemy is hard on us. ‘You failure, you trouble-maker, you “bother to the father,” leave him alone! He doesn’t want to deal with you…pest!’
Lies, all lies. My daughter is the illustration. Even if I were upset with her, I would die for her. I would lie down before a train, wrestle a bear, strangle an assailant, shield her from a bullet. She is mine. And we, as believers, are God’s. Jesus said, ‘I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.’ John 10:28.
Elysa is no trouble to me. I love her, and her siblings and mother, more than I can describe. And yet, imperfect as I am, I remain susceptible to annoyance and petty anger; tiny disruptions of my schedule seem enormous. But God is not like that.
He is ready to hear our plea, help us, find our lost things (including our lost souls) and forgive us…then forget all of it.
‘For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’
Psalm 103: 11-12
Elysa taught me some lessons, over a simple little badge and through the tears of a daughter. Small things are just that. Anger is frequently useless. Forgiveness is always available. And we must accept the forgiveness offered to us and move on, leaving the past behind.
I guess I learned something from AWANA tonight, too.