When our kids were small, we’d dress up our kids in cute little costumes each Halloween, and let them loose in our tiny little town. They’d return with full bags and big grins. If you’re a parent, you know your kids are wired differently. This was never quite so evident as during those weeks following October 31st. Our son Jeff would devour his entire bag of candy before he went to bed if we didn’t stop him, and awake the next morning holding his stomach and groaning. Stephen, on the other hand, was a hoarder. Each evening he’d spill the contents of his bag onto his bunk bed. He’d line up the Twizzlers, the gobstoppers, the caramels, and the rockets, and take inventory. Then he’d eat one or two, place them back in the bag, and hang them from his bedpost. In this way, he could make his stash last until the next October.
After about a week, poor little Jeffrey had finished off his own bag of goodies. He’d climb into his bottom bunk each night below his brother, with Stephen’s bag of candies dangling inches from his nose. And then one day, Jeffrey snapped. The next evening the inventory was way off. He marched to the living room where five-year-old Jeffrey was playing with Lego. “Jeffy!” he squealed. “You ate my candy!” Jeff’s eyes opened wide in terror. The left-overs of one of Steve’s gumballs was still on Jeff’s chin. “Rachael did it,” said Jeff, pointing at his sister. “Liar,” Stephen screamed, and lunged for Jeff’s throat.
Years have passed. Not long ago Jeff and Steve and I got laughing about this story, but Steve admitted that forgiveness didn’t come easy for him after that. His list of the unforgiven grew longer over time. “They didn’t steal my candy, but I allowed them to steal my joy. It just isn’t worth it. But when you understand how much you have been forgiven it’s hard to hold on to those old grudges.”
Maybe you need to let go of a grudge or two today. If so, here are a few steps that have helped me. Step 1: remember that God has forgiven you completely. Ephesians 1:7 says that in Jesus “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” Step 2: Remember you are loved outrageously by the one who created you. Step 3: Choose to forgive. It’s a choice we must make. Pray a simple prayer. “God, I repent for holding a grudge, I choose to forgive him, and I ask that you would fill my heart with love for him.”
It’s an amazing thing to see this love grow in the hearts of your kids. Steve is getting married and guess who his best man will be? That’s right. The candy thief.