I’m teaching Pre-K through 1st grade CCD this year for my parish. To say that it is a challenge for me would be the understatement of the year. I have fourteen students, most of whom are highly energetic little boys. After sitting through the Children’s Mass, the last thing these children want to do is sit through an hour and a half class. They don’t like to listen to stories, so I generally try to present the lesson of the week using crafts and games and activities. This week’s lesson was on forgiveness.
One of the crafts I had planned was a cross with five hearts — one in the middle and one on each of the four extending sections. On the center heart was written “Love is Forgiving.” The students could decorate the other four hearts any way that they wanted. My eight-year-old son had created the sample. On his he had used the other hearts to repeat the sentiment in the middle. Many of the students followed suit. One first grader, however, wrote “I am forgiving God” on his outside hearts.
On the spur of the moment, I was taken aback by his words. I told him “Well, God doesn’t need to be forgiven for anything because he doesn’t do anything wrong, but sometimes, it seems like we need to forgive him when we get mad when something goes wrong,” and continued on to the next student. I’ve spent the rest of the day, however, thinking about the idea of forgiving God.
What I told the young boy was true. God certainly doesn’t need to be forgiven by us. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good. God doesn’t make mistakes. From our limited perspective, though, we often see it differently. Natural disasters occur which wreak havoc. Young children suffer with illnesses no one should have to face. Loved ones die just when we need them most. The world is full of evil and pain and suffering and while God doesn’t want it to happen, He does allow it. It doesn’t make much sense. Some people even use such an argument to maintain that there is no God, or if one exists, He isn’t a personal God who cares about us. We believe differently, but it doesn’t make being hurt by God any easier to take.
God knows best. We tell ourselves that there is a reason for the suffering. There is a greater purpose behind the pain that someday will be revealed to us. In the next world, all will make sense. But we live in the now. In this moment of our hurt and pain, we often blame God. We question God. We want to know why. We think we know better. In our anger, we need to forgive God — not because He needs it, but because we do.
Forgiveness is freeing for the one who offers it. Anger takes a great deal of mental energy and emotional energy to maintain. It can eat you up inside if you let it, pushing out all the joy and happiness and not allowing room for anything else. If one is angry at God, one ceases to see all the good that He does in one’s life. Everything is seen through that filter of hurt and pain. It is a process, but we need to let go.
I think it is important to note that my student wrote “I am forgiving God.” It is not a completed action. It is ongoing. We do need to accept that there will always be pain on this side of heaven. We also need to accept that there is a reason for it. Forgiving God can be part of the healing process and bring us into deeper relationship with Him. It is one more step in having complete trust in His will.