There’s a note tucked in my bedside drawer. It’s a ‘sorry’ letter that Molly wrote me earlier this year. I keep spotting it there, but can’t bring myself to throw it away. There’s something about the power and sorrow of an 8-year-old that I want to preserve – even if it’s fleeting and floating around my drawer.
The letter was written the day after Molly received the ultimate consequence for some ordinary behaviour. Two nights before a much-anticipated date at Bounce with some friends who form something called ‘The Friendship Club’ at The Big Table, she was being rebellious in the seemingly simple act of going to bed. Her accomplice in crime, Clover, was little better. Fi was out so it was a solo effort to enforce peace in the house. I think that both were offenders, but Molly definitely had most to lose.
Poised on the third strike, I brought Molly back to her room and said ‘This is it, Molly, get out of bed one more time, and you don’t even want to know the consequence’. (How is it that we become our parents in moments like this?) She did want to know and I gave her a fair idea.
About five minutes later I heard noise again upstairs, and I climbed towards their bedrooms hoping that she’d be in bed. Inexplicably, she was up again. There was that sinking feeling that if she was, I’d have to follow through on a consequence that I already wished I hadn’t made.
As I reached the top of the stairs, Molly was exiting Clover’s room. We locked eyes. The penny fell, and the remorse began as she ran back to her bed. I don’t think I have ever heard the sort of visceral and wrenching crying that I heard that night as she realised that she’d traded a couple of rebellious laughs with her little sister for a day with The Friendship Club.
As a parent, I was stuck as well. You can’t just relent and say ‘oh, yeah, that consequence really hurts me too, it’s all ok‘, and yet you realise that in the light of day, it was going to be unfortunate for everyone involved.
I hung tough. A consequence is a consequence.
Then I received this: a letter crafted with sufficient pathos that it broke the soft heart of her father with appropriate doses of remorse, manipulation, logic and pleading.
Here’s how it read:
I’m sorry about getting out of bed last night. I don’t really know what I was thinking when I did. I just completely lost my mind. I was r-e-a-l-l-y excited, and I don’t think that you could say to Janet that I can’t come to Bounce because she’s already paid for me and you can’t get your money back when you pay for Bounce.
So please, can you say that I can come. You just don’t know how regretful and sorry I feel now.
I have to say, while it would be easy to cave at first sight of a letter like that, I’m made of tougher stuff. But there was something about the lines ‘I completely lost my mind’ and ‘you don’t know how regretful and sorry I feel now’ that changed my heart.
Molly went to Bounce with The Friendship Club.
Each time I pull out that letter, I get taken back to Psalm 103.
The Psalmist writes that:
He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
I’ve wondered before how an omniscient God can remove the memory of our sin as far as the east is from west. Elsewhere, in Micah 7:19, it talks about God casting our sin into his sea of forgetfulness.
As I’ve re-read the letter from time to time, I realise again that I harbour zero unforgiveness towards Molly. I did not treat her as her actions deserved. Because I want good things for Molly, I showed compassion.
I still have the letter. Why? Because there’s something about reading her heartfelt repentance, that moves me. Amidst the rational and pragmatic is the simple confession “I lost my mind…you don’t know how regretful and sorry I feel right now”.
Sin makes you stupid. It makes you say and do stupid things that hurt ourselves and hurt others. God hears our hearts. He wants to hear our hearts because he wants to be in right relationship with us. The turning of our hearts towards him and the right-thinking of our actions coupled with repentance, moves the heart of God. He wants to pour out mercy and compassion on us for the sake of right relationship. Because mercy triumphs over judgement.
I may not always let Molly go to Bounce, but I’m sure I’ll always be moved by her repentance. There’s a father’s heart beating in here.