Life Lessons: Forgiveness and Grace

By: Mary Ellen Collins

I have been digging into the memories of my life and recalling the sources of some of my beliefs.  Where did they come from? Who did they come from? What was the first memory about when I had to learn to forgive or give grace? Dig! Dig! Dig!

Aw yes, my first “forgiveness” memory (NOT) was telling my brother that I was sorry for calling him a bad name. Of course, I got punished for doing that. I was only 3 yrs. old. I really don’t think that I learned a true lesson from that experience, just to call him a bad name where mom couldn’t hear. 

I am remembering another situation, which I think, is a better example. I was about 5 yrs. old and I had been shopping at the dime store, like a pre-historic Target, with my mom. Now in those days, shopping was an all day activity. We did not use today’s convenience of an automobile to just jet to where we wanted to go. It meant taking a bus to one stop, transferring to another bus, reaching our destination, toting our purchases, and then reversing the process. 

As we shopped, I saw a little compact of rouge, which I just thought I had to have. Mom said “no,” but I slid it in my pocket. No one had seen me! Success!

We returned home, and I reached into my pocket and showed my mother the rouge that somehow had “fallen” into my pocket. She immediately put my coat back on and off we went. She explained to me that taking something that belonged to someone else was not OK and it must be returned to its rightful owner. I tried again to make her understand that I could not possibly know who the rightful owner was since it had magically appeared in my pocket. Now I was not only a thief but a liar also. 

The bus ride was a trip to purgatory when I learned that I would not be able to just slip my stolen goods back on the shelf. I had to tell the owner what I had done and ask for his forgiveness!  I panicked. “What IFs?” played out in my mind. I saw myself as the only 5 yr. old in history in prison! 

By the time we arrived at the gates of hell, I was a basket case. My mother asked the girl at the counter if she could speak to the owner. The look on her face was confusion wondering what she had done. My mother explained that I had something that belonged to him that I needed to return.  Even though the girl offered to relieve me of my impending doom, my mother insisted again that we see the owner. 

When the owner arrived, my mother told me to go ahead.  WHAT? I was tongue-tied. What would I say? What would he say? I began in a wee voice to tell him that I had thought this compact was so pretty that I put it in my pocket. The man looked from me to my mother in confusion and then suddenly realized the opportunity before him. 

He accepted my apology and the return of the compact. He told me how brave I was to own up to my act. He accepted it and walked away.

Whew!! Now that part was over and I was facing the wrath of my warden. 

Instead of yelling and screaming or punishing me, my mother simply asked, “What did you learn?”. It couldn’t be that simple, could it? 

I am a mother and a grandmother now and that incident is as fresh in my mind as yesterday. What did I learn? 

  • I learned not to take things that do not belong to me.
  • I learned that one act of transgression leads to another. It is so easy to sin and then sin again to cover the first one.
  • I learned that it is so difficult to own up to your transgressions.
  • I learned that when someone loves you with Christ-like love, forgiveness and grace is easy.
  • I learned that life is full of opportunities to teach and show forgiveness and grace.
  • I learned that we are constantly modeling to our children lessons that will stick with them throughout their life.
  • I think I am still learning.

What is your first memory of forgiveness and grace? 

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