Friday, March 11, 2011

Forgiveness and Mercy

As parents, we know we're not perfect with our children. We yell at them, lose patience with them, or ignore them when they need us. We try, but we fall short again and again. Are we scarring our children for life? And what about our just plain incapacities as human beings? How does this affect the children entrusted to us? I am particularly sensitive to this because of my own struggles with chronic illness, and of the awareness that my children have of my suffering. How is it affecting them?

I believe that the most important thing is to pray and to seek to build a loving home in which God is present. If Jesus is a reality in our household (and I mean real, not just lots of pictures, although pictures help), then our kids will learn that our lack of perfection is not the ultimate measure of things. Of course the effort of kindness and attention is important, and difficult. Its part of that mutual forgiveness and mercy that is fundamental to any human community. Mercy gives help to those in need, and where do we get to practice that every day if not with our children?  We try our best (that's part of what's necessary for Jesus to be real in the household), but we are going to fail. I have found that a beautiful thing is happening, though. My children are learning to forgive me. The only way that people can live together is in forgiveness and mercy, and that is only possible when we are reminded every day that Jesus is with us. He shows His mercy in our willingness to forgive. I pray and seek to be a person of forgiveness and mercy. But I am frankly awed by the mercy my children have for me.

It is something that goes beyond anything that we've taught them (perhaps they have learned it from the mercy their mother shows me). Maybe its our situation, with me being sick and thus visibly vulnerable. Its not that they are not demanding or sassy. Usually they are. But I think of John Paul especially: he sometimes shows a striking capacity to understand and accept that I have certain limits that I cannot help. I cannot play ball with him, and I hate that. But its okay. He understands and I don't think that he's going to grow up with a complex about having a weak father. Somehow it is making him stronger. And it is continuing as he grows into adolescence. I believe it is because there really is Someone Else in the home, and He is in charge, and He is the one thing we all know will never fail us.