“He will again have compassion on us…
and will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” ~Micah 7:19
Photo: Kerrie James Photography, 2013
We have a problem.
When Hope coughs Rhema gets upset and hits, scratches or pulls Hope’s hair. Hope has asthma – the kind that’s landed her in the hospital in the past – and this time of year her asthma and allergies are always troublesome. We’ve encouraged her to keep her distance when she needs to cough. But often she doesn’t even realize she’s coughing until it’s too late.
On Easter Sunday we sat in a circle at Children’s Church while my friend taught the lesson. Rhema sat in my lap and colored and hummed and tried her best to stay in the circle. Hope, sitting next to us, coughed. Before I could stop her, Rhema reached out and hurt her sister. Hope’s eyes silently begged me not to make a scene. So I just leaned over and kissed the spot of her head where she’d been scratched and whispered “I’m sorry, baby.”
My heart breaks for both of my girls. Rhema’s sensitivity to sounds seems to have increased over the past year and sometimes she is simply unable to cope. Some noises cause her to wilt in frustration; others cause her to lash out. With the myriad sounds in her day – predictable and unpredictable – I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for her to process.
I was driving the girls home from school when Hope coughed in the backseat. “Rhema, stop! Stop!” Hope pleaded as Rhema grabbed her head. I frantically pulled over and pried Rhema’s fingers from Hope’s hair. These are the moments that haunt Brandon and me and keep us up at night. Hours later I can still hear Hope’s cries in my ears, still see her tears.
At home I said, “Rhema, I want you to say sorry to Hope.” I didn’t know what else to do. I just felt helpless and frustrated and angry for both of them. I held Rhema still while Hope stood there quietly and I prompted Rhema several times, Say sorry.
Finally my girl uttered two soft sounds. Sorry is such a hard word to say when your tongue doesn’t work the way it should. But she tried. It didn’t sound like “sorry.” But we knew. And really she never had to say it. We knew she was sorry. She doesn’t mean to hurt, we know how very much she loves.
And then she put her hands to her eyes and cried. I froze. To see her pain and remorse in this way and for us understand it was a new experience. Hope wrapped arms around her, “Oh Rhema, I forgive you. I forgive you. It’s ok.”
I hugged both of their curly heads to my heart.
Forgiveness so costly, yet freely, joyfully given.
“Dissolved by thy goodness, I fall to the ground. And weep to the praise of the mercy I’ve found.*” I’ve known it, I know it every day. As I stand speechless and guilty and sorry of many things. Seventy times seven times, He pays my debts and washes them all away. I am welcomed into open arms of mercy, covered in unfailing love.
Later I asked her as we sat at the kitchen table, “Hope, how does God forgive?”
“He forgives forever.”
And again and again amen.
*Thy Mercy, My God by Sandra McCracken