Yesterday we sat playing tools. The kids were hammering away. I was enjoying watching their imaginations at play. Out of nowhere, whack! the hammer makes contact with my eye. “Ouch!” I hollered in real pain, “that hurt mommy!”
Micah’s lower lip pushed out and began to tremble. He buried his sad face in my side and refused to look up at me. I wasn’t angry. I knew he never intended to hurt me. He really wasn’t even aware that hammering my eye would hurt mommy. I explained to him that I wasn’t mad at him, but that it did hurt me when he hammered my eye. He finally looked at me with such deep sadness over what he had done, so choked with his own emotion that he couldn’t even say the words he knew he needed to say, “I’m sorry.”
It took him longer than usual to rebound from this incident than it did from others like it. He knew he had caused me pain, and he felt so sad about it. It kind of broke my heart to see him so hung up over a little hammer to the eye. He even insisted that we call Daddy on the phone, and when Andrew answered, Micah stated right away, “I’m sad because I hit mommy with the hammer.” We talked with Daddy about how it was time to let it go because he had already said he was sorry. He didn’t need to hold on to his sadness anymore.
After our phone call we began to play again, and I assumed the incident was finished. But, as I walked towards the door of Micah’s room last night in the dark, after stories, songs, and prayers, I heard from the crib, “Hey, Mom?”
“I’m sorry I hit you with the hammer and made you sad.”
“It’s ok buddy. You said you were sorry, and Mommy loves you very much. Mommy is not mad. Mommy doesn’t want you to feel sad anymore about that, ok? I love you very much.”
“I love you very much too, Mommy.”
Hours later he was still holding on to his sadness over how he had hurt me. This was true remorse, and it touched me to see my two-year-old son expressing such emotional depth.
At breakfast this morning, Micah gave me a sideways glance and said, “Mom, I’m sad.”
Of course I knew what was coming, but I asked anyways, “Why are you sad, buddy?”
“Because I hit you in the eye with the hammer.”
Oh my goodness. His little heart was still so sad! I reassured him that he was forgiven and that I loved him so much. I told him I didn’t want him to be sad anymore. It was time to let it go and move on. His sadness had inhibited his play the previous afternoon, and now it was carrying over into today. He didn’t want to eat because he was so sad about hurting mommy. Bless his tender heart — may it beat this way forever.
In this little interchange, I caught a glimpse of how our Father must feel towards us when we continually beat ourselves up over our failings. Yes, grief over our sins can be appropriate. Sometimes they are very destructive to ourselves and to others. However, what Jesus has done for us on the cross has removed the guilt of our sins. I can almost hear him asking, “Why are you still so sad over this? It’s done. Let’s move on!” Continual wallowing in our own guilt and unworthiness only hampers our enjoyment of life and our effectiveness in what God has for us to do.
In Nehemiah when the Israelites returned from exile, rebuilt their city wall, and gathered under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, Ezra read the book of the law to the people. Their hearts were broken with grief over the ways they had displeased God and departed from his laws. They were mourning and weeping. But Nehemiah tells them repeatedly, “do not mourn or weep … Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Yes, they had made mistakes and strayed from God’s path, but that did not change God’s love for them and the joy he would exude over their return to him.
What I see in Micah’s story and in the passage from Nehemiah is the deep love of our Father. Yes, my heart was sad that Micah would hit me with a hammer, just as our sins sadden God’s heart. But deeper than that sadness over the incident was my desire for Micah to know he was loved so that he could move on. And this is true of our Father: Deeper than his sadness over our sin is his desire for us to know that we are so very loved. In this, we can move forward. Rather than standing in the weight of my own guilt, I want to stand in his love.