Until my early 30s, “forgive” was not a common term in my vocabulary. I was quite capable of staying mad at people, situations . . . anything that ticked me off. I often felt the need to be justified, vindicated. Then I met Rob. In the 14 years I’ve known him, I’ve never seen him harbour a grudge. At the beginning of our marriage, he didn’t quite know what to do with all my self-righteous indignation. And I couldn’t believe how easily he could release an injustice. Slowly, over the years, I’ve caught some of his ability to let matters go. I now see forgiveness as a strength rather than a weakness. What a blessing that our kids are also “catching” that teaching and growing up with a live model of grace and mercy.
That’s why it was perfect for Rob to do the teaching on bitterness. I could have spoken from experience, but he could speak as one who simply doesn’t let the root take hold in the first place. He used the Fun with Food suggestion called “Bitter Roots” as the basis for his lesson. Without prefacing the event, other than saying he was doing “an experiment,” he simply asked the kids to sit on the kitchen floor, close their eyes and open their mouths. He then took two teaspoons of black coffee (not too hot) and fed Ben and Jess simultaneously. BLECCHH!!! Their eyes flew open in surprise and disgust. “That’s bitter!” they wailed. “Ewww! It’s coffee!”
Rob then handed them each a mug and said, “Now try this.” Needless to say, they were a tad leery, but after a sniff and a peek, they took a tentative taste. “Mmmmm! Hot chocolate! Yummy.” As they continued sipping, Rob followed the prescribed line of questioning. He asked which taste they liked better (sweet) and how they made the bad taste go away (chased it away with something nice).
Rob then spoke about our reactions to injustice or unkindness. He explained that it’s easy to harbour a grudge and to feel bitter toward the other person (he defined that as “staying mad”). I added that if we choose to not forgive, it’s like poisoning ourselves, and the relationship. Alternately, we can “chase the bitterness away with the sweetness of forgiveness,” which tastes much nicer for all involved! I emphasized that we have control over how we react. We must choose to forgive.
After more discussion, Rob asked a question that stumped the kids: “Can we forgive someone before they ask us?” Hmm . . . uncertainty filled the air. He gave them a hint by asking, “Did Jesus forgive us before we ever asked?” The overwhelming “Yes!” response led to a conclusion, reminding Benjamin and Jessica that with God’s power in us, we can make the choice to forgive any and all hurts. Because of Christ’s sweet example of forgiveness, we don’t have to live with the ugly taste of bitterness in our lives.