By Rebecca Barlow Jordan
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 TNIV
Much of my husband’s childhood years he spent on a lake in West Texas where his parents and grandparents owned a fishing camp. Like all boys, Larry loved to play “buried treasure.” The sand around the camp offered multiple opportunities for realistic pirating adventures.
But one fateful day, Larry learned a powerful lesson he never forgot. Here’s his story:
“At the fishing camp, people were always coming and going: stocking up on groceries, searching out the best fishing lures, and renting campsites nearby to set up tents. Mom kept a small file box in the house in which she saved silver dollars.
One day I spied that box and saw ‘Capt. Kidd’ and ‘Treasure’ written all over it. I opened it up and counted fifty shiny coins—not much in today’s economy, but a huge sum to my parents in those days—and definitely a realistic treasure for a pirate. I thought it would be cool to ‘bury’ that treasure box, so I took it out to an empty tent behind our house where I was playing with some other kids. We had great fun pretending we were burying our treasure inside that tent.
“But as boys often do, I got distracted and forgot about the box of silver dollars. Two or three days later, Mom asked about the box. Suddenly I remembered that I had left them in the tent. So I hurried out back, confident I would be the pirate hero and retrieve the buried treasure for the ‘damsel in distress.’
“But when I looked in the tent, there was no box. I pawed through every corner as sand flew in every direction. No box. No treasure. No silver dollars. And no pirate hero. I returned to face my fate from a mom who was now greatly ‘in distress.’
“I’ll never forget my mother’s words. She didn’t punish me. She didn’t chew me out. She didn’t take away my fishing or pirating privileges. She said two things that left a dramatic impression on me. With obvious disappointment, she said, ‘We could have fed our family for a month with that money.’ She let her words hang in the air for a moment, then reached out to hug me. Then she said, ‘But I forgive you.’
“An enemy pirate couldn’t have sliced me any deeper. Another‘pirate’ had obviously stolen the treasure, but the responsibility lay directly in my hands.”
Through a mom’s forgiveness, she has the divine opportunity to model Christ’s own love to her children. Badgering, abusing, screaming, berating—these are not God’s tools. They’re more like “enemy” pirate behavior. Certainly, appropriate discipline is needed when outright disobedience challenges parental authority.
But Larry’s mom wisely understood how to drive home the consequences of a boy’s foolish mistake and childish behavior without wounding his character. Her words stung, and made him realize the extreme carelessness of his actions. But it was his mom’s forgiveness that taught him the most about extravagant love.
Only God can teach that kind of love. He is extravagant love, personified. Almost two thousand years ago, he saw the extreme “pirating” of his world. The ones he created didn’t understand their true purpose and instead chose their own way through sinful behavior. The cost to God was overwhelming. He knew the ultimate consequences of sin. He didn’t excuse it. But he took his most extravagant, expensive treasure—his own Son—and offered it as a gift to his world in distress. And with a holy whisper of grace, he said, “What you’ve done is not acceptable. But I forgive you.”
And those who still hear him and receive his extravagant love and forgiveness will never forget it. They will never be the same again.
In what ways did your mom show you extravagant love? How have you demonstrated forgiveness to your own children? How has God shown that kind of love and forgiveness to you?
Forgiveness is not always easy, but it is always right.
Father, what an awesome God you are! Thank you for your extravagant love and forgiveness. Teach me to model that kind of love to my children, so they can see Jesus clearly in me.
© 2009, Rebecca Barlow Jordan, Day-votions® for Mothers (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan), All Rights Reserved.
What about you? What lessons of extravagant love and forgiveness has your mom–or God–taught you? How has forgiveness been hard–but right–for you?