Today's youth group lesson, which I was asked to teach and agreed before I could back out on grounds of unworthiness, was about forgiveness.
At the risk of sounding nauseously righteous, I usually consider myself a forgiving person; I teach teenagers - if I couldn't extend grace on a regular basis, I would be miserable. And fired, I hope. But since the advent of my best friend's personal Hell, I have felt the blackest hole gnawing through my gut whenever I think about her ex and am wondering if I'm the best person to help young people understand what it means to forgive.
The first thing the lesson recommended I do was share an experience when I had trouble forgiving someone; because my son is in the group and because I don't yet trust my emotions regarding this situation and because it's tremendously awkward when teachers cry, I chose instead to have the kids tell me what they thought defined forgiveness. I wrote their responses on the board - everything from "say 'I forgive you'" to "accept an apology" to "let it go." We talked about whether or not it's important to consider what was done, and if someone had to ask for it in order for you to extend forgiveness. And - do we have to forget after we forgive? I just kept thinking how these concepts are wrenching for me, a grown-up practicing Christian; they must thoroughly confound pre-teens who are frequently overwrought with hormones and questions and beliefs in Fairness.
I had everyone write or draw what forgiveness would look like when they gave it to someone. The pictures & words were remarkably mature, though when I asked afterward who would find it easy to do what they wrote only a few hands went up. In the end, we agreed to talk about it more next week. I told them to keep their eyes & ears & minds open to examples of when it was (and when it wasn't) easy to forgive people.
I will do the same.