One day a mother and her 10-year old son requested a talk with the pastor who also taught the boy’s Bible study class. The child had behaved poorly and his mother was trying to coach him about how to apologize. She queued his words, “Tell him you will listen next time, tell him you will not disrupt the class, apologize for being loud.” Her son obediently repeated his mom’s words trying to just get the whole ordeal over with so he could go play. As he spoke the words to the pastor, she added one more instruction. “Tell Pastor to zip up his pants.” The child broke into uncontrollable laughter and Pastor excused himself to address his clothing failure.
Do you remember the first time you needed to apologize to someone? Do you sometimes think about someone you wish you had apologized to long ago?
When I was about eight years old my mom caught me eating grapes in the produce section of the grocery store. She found one of the store managers and made me apologize to him and pay him for some grapes. The experience, while unpleasant at the moment, taught me an important lesson. When you take something that does not belong to you, there is an actual person who is harmed even if you don’t know who they are and will never see them.
I know, I know, this is small potatoes in the big picture, but the point of this lesson never left me. If mom had not taken the time and effort to address my behavior, the teachable moment would have been lost. She did not cause a big scene as I remember the moment. She just provided the opportunity for me to be face to face with the person who was responsible for the produce section.
Years later, on a simple visit to a convenience store, a man in front of me stood with his son. When the clerk looked up to check him out, the father said, “Go ahead son, tell him.” The child resisted with an obstinate attitude about his failure to pay for a candy bar. The father was furious. The clerk responded, “It’s no big deal. Really, not a problem.”
I wanted to scream out, “Of course it’s a big deal. This dad is trying to instill honor in his child. He’s taking difficult action in a frustrating situation with the purpose of raising a responsible adult.” The boy did not relent. The parent was ready to explode and the clerk was blind to the importance of the moment. The child put up some walls that day in his own heart. He had been a little older than I was when I ate the grapes. I wondered if he had been building those walls for a while.
Sometimes a seemingly small incident can change the course of our life. I am thankful for many moments my parents used to teach me. As a grandparent, watching for teachable moments feels much more like fun and much less like work than it did when I was raising my own kids.
A local friend came to my husband one day and apologized for something she had done years before. He did not even know that she had acted against him but for years I had wondered why our interactions did not seem as personable as in the past on the occasions I saw her.
I share these little situations for a reason. When we resist doing what is right, walls begin to form in our relationships. The most dangerous place we let those walls go up is between us and God.The more we push against his authority in our life, the less likely we are to want to talk to him. The less likely we are to want to be with him. The less we feel like his servant. An apology is in order. We usually don’t call it an apology, but rather a confession when referring to our relationship with God.
The beautiful end is this. Whatever the relationship, apology that comes from a humble heart ends with restoration. Of trust. Of dignity. Of renewed spirit. Of understanding. Of newfound courage. Of all things good.