Seventy-seven Times

"Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times."

We don't know where she picked it up; it isn't something we have modeled, necessarily, and not something we intentionally taught. But we hear it several times a day.

"Juliette, you can't take toys away from your sister."
"Will you forgive me?"

"Juliette, you know you're not supposed to jump on the couch."
"Will you forgive me?"

"You're not listening!"
"Please forgive me!"

It kind of knocked the wind out of me the first time she said it. I don't know why it feels so different than a simple "I'm sorry." It's so humbling, so plaintive, so serious. It has taught me to dial down my reactions to her minor offenses; otherwise, my harsh tone immediately elicits a plea for forgiveness, and I find myself trying to explain that she does not need to be forgiven for getting so excited about a picture book that she accidentally raised her voice over the acceptable volume for the library. She merely needs a reminder. Preferably, a gentler one.

I'm torn between worrying that overusing the language of forgiveness will water it down, and celebrating the ease with which she asks for it. With Juliette around, there is no danger of forgiveness becoming a dusty theological word, divorced from lived relationships.

I am learning to say, "Yes, I forgive you," because no matter how overblown the situations may seem, I want her to learn that she will always be forgiven, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

I am also learning to ask for my daughter's forgiveness, to not merely say that I am sorry, but to use the language that she has adopted.

She always says yes.

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