A few weeks ago, I saw three Boy Scouts, from the troop our church hosts, being a little rowdy in the church hallway. I asked them to quiet down and to not run, which I thought solved the issue. It wasn’t until two hours later that it was brought to our attention that they they stuffed the toilet in the men’s bathroom and flushed. With water now covering a good portion of the floor. (Guess, I caught them after they committed the act).
It was brought to the scout leaders attention and each of the three boys wrote a letter of apology to the Head of Staff. The other pastor and I chatted about these letter and I was amused by some of the word choices like, “I am sorry for sabotaging your bathroom.” However, we still wanted to see something more. As he put it, I wanted them to spend “some time on their knees” cleaning the bathroom. But we accepted their apology letter and asked nothing else of them. Did they get off too easy? Did we make our grace and forgiveness cheap?
This is something I struggle with in my own life and as a parent. Of late, I am quite guilty of saying the words, “I’m sorry” without truly meaning it. Yes, I am sorry in that moment, but I don’t find myself working to change that behavior pattern. As a matter of fact, I find myself often apologizing to the DH for the same thing the next day. And he forgives me, yet again. Does he let me off too easy?
And I don’t think a day goes by that the DH or I am spending time getting one of our children to apologize to the other for something. Most of the time, it is for the same offense they committed again the other the day before. Is an apology enough?
Perhaps my issue lies not with the apology, but with the motives behind it. I wonder if something we say “I’m sorry” because we know it will get out us out of the current jam and not because we really are remorseful or have taken to heart that what we did offended or hurt another. Doing that takes time, doesn’t it? It takes time to sit down and talk with the other about their feelings and what has occurred. So, then, rather take the time to fully talk it through and understand the situation, we often offer a blanket apology, knowing that 95% of the time it will get us off the hook.
And it does! It has gotten me off the hook probably 99% of the time. But maybe I shouldn’t be let off the hook that easy. Maybe I need to be on the hook. Perhaps it is the “being on the hook” that causes transformation, so by being let off the hook too quickly or easily we aren’t experiencing growth and transformation.
The hook is a hard place to be, but I think each one of us probably needs to spend a little bit more time on it. But I also think we need to extend grace to others when they are on the hook. Not by offering cheap forgiveness by saying the usual “Don’t worry about it” or “That’s okay”, but by taking the time to engage and dialogue with the other about what occurred. I think that this interchange of emotions is one of the places we experience God’s transformational power.
So, I hope my DH reads this and won’t let me off the hook. I hope I squirm a bit and in the squirming I am transformed. That my “I’m sorries” are more than blanket apologizes, but words that bring new life and meaning to my life. (High goal, but I was told shoot for the moon) And hopefully in the squirming, I can show my kids that while it is hard to be on that hook, there is a whole community supporting you. You are never on it alone.
May the One who offers us grace this day also be the One who challenges us to not squirm off the hook too quickly or easily.