Father Fails and Forgiveness from Children

By Ross Engel

My wife commented recently that my sermons have been overflowing with forgiveness. But before I could thank her for such a great compliment, she asked me, “Have you been needing more forgiveness lately?”

Gee, thanks…

The truth of the matter is that I always need forgiveness. Lots of it! We all do. Sinners, to the very core, are always in need of forgiveness. 

“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” – 1 Timothy 1:15-16

This past week, the word of forgiveness that I needed to hear came from my three and five-year-old daughters.

After a particularly long day, I blew my top, lost my patience, and raised my voice. I was ticked off. I could probably justify my anger. After all, it was bedtime. My two girls were supposed to be cleaning up their room, getting their PJs on, and doing their bedtime routine. Instead, they were monkeying around in their underwear. I’m not exactly sure what they were up to, but Dad was not happy.

Ross' Girls

Typically, my girls are good at following instructions. Though only children, they really do a good job with doing what they’re asked to do and are pretty self-sufficient when it comes to their daily tasks. But for some reason, this particular night, they were all out of sorts. I guess I was, too.

Through angry, tear-filled eyes, my oldest daughter looked at me and said, “Daddy, we’re not monkeying around, and we’re not a bunch of knuckleheads…”

Yeah… I had a father fail. I got angry and told my girls that they were “acting like a bunch of knuckleheads.” I guess you could say that I did the exact opposite of what Scott wrote about earlier this week in his post titled, “Give them Grace.”

The rest of the bedtime routine of books, prayers, and a song were punctuated with the sniffling of little girls’ tears. The girls went to bed sad, and I sat in my study wishing that I had done things differently and that I hadn’t lost my patience so spectacularly. As I sat in my little pity party, I realized that I won’t be my children’s hero for long if they are terrified of me and want nothing to do with me.

But like the Psalmist says, “Joy comes in the morning..” – Psalm 30:5

At breakfast, my girls and I talked about the night before. They apologized for their behavior and I forgave them. And as they chowed down on their cereal I then asked them to forgive me for losing my patience and for calling them a pair of knuckleheads. Both girls jump quickly out of their chairs, ran to me and said “we forgive you Daddy.” Forgiveness was delivered, hugs and kisses were exchanged, and the day began with gladness and reconciliation. The bond between father and daughters was repaired!

“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!” – Psalm 32:1

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So often when I talk with others about forgiveness, I use the example of a father forgiving his children and how children experience great peace and joy when a parent forgives them of their wrongdoing. When children are in trouble, they often carry with them a lot of fear; they can find themselves wondering if their relationship – their place in the family – is at risk because of something they did wrong. Forgiveness gives them the assurance that they are still a welcomed part of the family and they have not messed up enough that they’re no longer a beloved child. It works the other way too. Hearing that word of forgiveness from my two daughters assured me that I hadn’t failed so badly that my girls had written me off or turned their backs on me as their dad.

I’m not the perfect dad. My wife and kids might be the first ones to admit that. But, even when I mess up, confession and absolution pulls me out of the despair of all my father fails (this wasn’t my first, it certainly won’t be my last).

When it comes to our Heavenly Father, confession and absolution is what releases us from the burden our sins place upon us. God has every right to be angry with us for our failings, shortcomings, and sins; yet, He has graciously promised that, when we confess our sins to Him, He forgives us and cleanses us from all our unrighteousness. Sins are placed on Jesus, the debt is paid, and Christ delivers His righteousness to His people.

I need that kind of forgiveness every day! What a joyous thing it is that God continues to deliver that gift of forgiveness to each of us!

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