Taking Seriously A Child’s Repentance
By Rob Young
The following story was written by Rob Young, and published in the February 8 issue of The Connection, a newsletter of Clovernook Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Reprinted from Harvest Prayer Messenger.
Like most five-year-olds, my daughter is a prolific artist. In fact, there is hardly a square inch on the refrigerator that is not covered with some sort of kindergarten art work.
Unfortunately, most of the paper for these projects is taken from the computer printer. There have been numerous times when I have needed to print something and found we were out of paper. To alleviate this problem, I bought my daughter a nice sketch pad and told her she needed to use it for her drawing and leave the computer paper alone. When this didn’t work, I told her the printer and paper were "closed." In our house, giving something the status of "closed" is a serious thing. It means that the closed object cannot be used or even touched.
The day after I made this announcement, my daughter, out of force of habit, ran to the computer and grabbed some paper. After a few minutes, she remembered that the paper was "closed." Feeling guilty and worried, she confessed to my wife what she had done.
To my wife and me, this was not really a big deal. However, to the sensitive conscience of a five-year-old, it was a significant event, and my daughter felt compelled to confess what she had done and needed assurance that she was forgiven.
She called me at the office to ask forgiveness. Unfortunately, I was in a meeting when she called and couldn’t talk to her. When I finally got out of my meetings, I returned her call. She confessed that she had taken some paper, apologized, and asked to be forgiven. I reassured her without much thought and went on with my day.
When I got home that evening, my wife told me how significant this event really was. My daughter was truly distressed while waiting for me to call back. After our conversation, her entire demeanor changed. It appeared as if a great weight had been lifted from her. In my wife’s words, receiving forgiveness was "recognizably transforming" for my daughter.
I think that we often feel the same need for forgiveness, reassurance, and transformation. But I recognize two significant contrasts between the forgiveness my daughter sought from me and the forgiveness we seek from God. Whereas I was occupied with another matter and therefore unavailable when my daughter needed me, God is always available to us and eager to forgive. And where my forgiveness, in reality, was very cheap and thoughtless, the forgiveness given by God is never cheap, easy, or thoughtless.
God’s desire to forgive us was born out of His infinite compassion. It is His desire, also, that we, like my daughter, be "recognizably transformed" as we experience His mercy and grace.