Norah and I had a hard night recently. Whew, It was rough. But I’m glad to say, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. You see, the kids and I were in the midst of the nighty clean-up of the house prior to bedtime when all of a sudden I busted Norah in a big-fat lie. I could see it in her adorable little face as her eyes got really wide and the blood rushed into her cheeks. It was tough, it took a while and we dealt with it, but the thing I was glad about was that I was able to short circuit that parental phenomenon that is the automatic and seemingly uncontrollable pull towards taking the whole thing very personally and getting really angry at the child. For those of you that are parents or have people in your life that are like kids to you, you know what I’m talking about… They lie, you know it, and it fills you with this alarming sense of betrayal as if they have personally smacked you in the face. The temptation is to deal with them out of this wounded, defensive anger instead of just dealing with the lie and moving on.
I’m thankful that on the night in question, we just dealt with the issue and I was able to curb my sense of being offended as well as all the anger that goes with it. As a result, Norah and I were totally cool and restored quickly afterwards, which was awesome. Now, I didn’t pull off this moment of parenting acrobatics because I am some kind of genius at child rearing. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s just that on that night, in that moment and for some reason I can’t quite pin down, I remembered a time when I was a kid that I told a big-fat lie to my parents and got busted for it. (For those who know me well, the moment in question is also referred to as ‘the buttermilk incident’ which is a story for another time) Anyway, that doozy of a lie from my past was a horrible moment, but it has changed the way I deal with being lied to.
You see, I am a liar. I have told lies. Sometimes I have told them on purpose and sometimes they sort of slip out without my express permission, but I am a liar and there’s just no getting around it, because I have been busted. And while getting busted stinks, it’s been good for me, because I believe that knowing who I really am and the mercy that I need every day has made me a more merciful and tender person when it comes to dealing with liars.
It’s just like that place in Matthew 18 where Peter asked Jesus, “How many times should I forgive my brother who sins against me? Seven times?” Jesus then unfolded this story about a king settling accounts with his subjects. One guy owed him the equivalent of millions of dollars, but the king forgave the debt when the poor servant begged for mercy. Thing is, that same servant left the king’s palace, found a guy that owed him a few bucks and went off on him, demanding he pay back every last cent or else he would prosecute! The other guy begged for mercy, but none was shown. The poor servant who had once begged for mercy himself now had this other guy thrown into prison.
I sit in front of this keyboard as a man who has been forgiven an incalculable debt. It’s not millions of dollars… it’s a lifetime of damning rebellion against the Holy God who made me and loves me. It’s an infinite debt that I could never, ever repay; and yet He has taken it all away, cleansed my heart and called me righteous because of His mercy in sending Jesus. I don’t have the right to extend anything but mercy to someone who has offended me. I don’t have the right to be angry, wounded or petty about some small moment of offense. In fact, the way you can tell if a person really understands the mercy they have received is to watch the way they give (or don’t give) mercy to others. Getting busted over and over again in my life and being forgiven by God again and again has been both the worst and best thing that’s ever happened to me. I say ‘the worst’ because let’s be honest: it hurts to find out who you really are over and over again; but it’s also been the best because slowly but surely, the mercy that’s always given is making me more merciful.