But Reese used to be easier with this type of thing. Back when Reese was a baby just getting into solid food, I remember taking her to a taco place while on a trip to Nashville, Tennessee. When the tacos arrived at our table Reese got wild, but in a fun way. Bouncing. Grunting. Smacking her lips. Gesturing wildly. Waving her arms. Fun stuff.
I gave her a tomato from my taco and she loved it. But a few moments later I accidentally gave Reese a tomato from my hot salsa. She went red-faced and started to cry. I was tired and distracted and probably had an eye on whatever was up on the TV, but that was no excuse. How could I have done this to her?
Not sufficiently cured of my negligence, a few minutes later I gave Reese a spoon of my refried beans…which I had forgotten to blow on. This was even worse. She let out a yelp of enraged pain and stuck out her tongue. I scraped the hot beans off with my finger. It was terrible. How could I hurt her so stupidly – twice – within five minutes?
But Reese didn’t hold it against me. Once the pain was past and the apologies poured out (not that she understood the words, of course), she accepted food from my hand like nothing had happened.
It is an amazing, foolish, and trusting love children so often invest in us flawed adults.
After the meal was over, I found myself thinking of Jesus’ words in Luke 11 about how loving, sane parents obviously don’t offer stinging scorpions when asked by their children for nourishing eggs. But through inattention I had given Reese two “stings” in five minutes when all she wanted was a little taste of something good. And I love my daughter desperately.
How often do we do what I did to Reese to each other? Now I’m not just talking about parents and small children and about tomatoes and refried beans.
How often do we hurt each other like that? How often do we hurt someone close to us not through malevolence, but through negligence? How often do we hurt someone by just not paying them the attention they deserve as a child of God? How often are we so focused on something in our lives that someone we claim to care about just gets chewed up because our eyes are elsewhere?
And, if we do sometimes hurt people like this, how often do we recognize it, repent, and seek to make amends? This kind of thing is always a pressing issue if Jesus is to be believed. After all, Jesus famously said in Matthew 25 that the way we treat the easily overlooked around us is how we treat him.
When I repented, baby Reese let me off the hook. I was reminded of the First Letter of John in the New Testament when, talking of God’s forgiveness known in Jesus, the author writes, “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us….”
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus looks down from the cross and asks for those assembled under his feet to be forgiven because they didn’t know what they were doing. I have no doubt that his prayer was answered happily. Restoration happens.
I had jammed piping hot beans into Reese’s mouth and she forgave me quickly, completely. Who knew my baby could act a little like the Lord? I hope I’m as able as she to forgive when I get the mouthful of molten beans from someone I care about.