Yesterday, my nine-year old daughter did something wrong. It wasn’t a mistake or a misunderstanding, but flat out wrong. No matter how enticing it might look and how fun it might be to propel a glob of jello onto the ceiling using a spoon as a catapult, it was wrong. And getting it stuck on the ceiling was evidence of the crime.
To her credit, she fessed up when the after-care helper noticed the mess. But with no ladder immediately available, and a high ceiling to boot, there was no way for her to remedy the wrong at the time. The after-care aide informed her that the headmaster at her small, private school was going to be notified.
My daughter was distraught when she got in the car. Her older siblings and I tried to contain our laughter, especially since her infraction was reminiscent of an incident several years ago involving chinese noodles and a very naughty little boy who has since transferred to another school. “We hope you don’t get expelled,” we joked, not realizing the depth of her despair.
When we got home, she was practically hysterical. “You said confessing would make me feel better,” she cried, “but it doesn’t.” Oh no! Time for some real parenting here – how to transform this into a teachable moment. “Well,” I said, “maybe you can write a letter of apology to the school. And I am proud that you did confess. In the end, you will feel better having told the truth.”
WIth all the confusion that evening, we forgot about writing the apology note. In fact, I forgot all about the incident until my phone rang this afternoon. It was the headmaster calling. “Major parenting fail”, I thought.
“Mrs. Ullman, I don’t know if you heard about the incident in after-care yesterday,” she began. “Yes, I was aware of it,” I assured her, and started to apologize for the lack of . . . something on my part.
“Well, I had a talk with your daughter this morning, and told her how proud I was of her for telling the truth about what she did. She seems genuinely remorseful and even had a talk with the aide and expressed her remorse again. We both assured her that she is forgiven.”
I mentioned that my daughter was very upset about it, and concerned that her confession had not made her feel better. To which the headmaster replied, “Yes, we assured her that forgiveness means that she no longer has to carry the guilt of her actions around with her. She is free from the guilt, and must release it to accept her forgiveness. We will not carry the memory with us, so she, too, must accept the freedom and return to her joyous self.”
Yes, this is a blog about freedom. But there is no greater freedom on this earth than to know you are forgiven. At Easter, we Christians celebrate the release that forgiveness brings through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What a timely and wonderful reminder. Brought to you by a blob of jello on a school ceiling. Amen.