Asking for forgiveness through our humility Print
Everyday Faith
Thursday, Jun. 02, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

Everyday Faith column by Julianne Nornberg

"Kids! Set the table! Finish vacuuming!"

My voice roared through the house as I struggled to complete the task of getting dinner on the table for my family of six. It was 5:55, and Daddy would be home shortly.

Homework was scattered across the table, toys littered the living room floor, the two little ones were bickering downstairs, and the two older ones, lost in books, were reluctant to tackle their chores.

The general chaos of the household suddenly set me on fire as I caved in to the feelings of stress and anger that erupted on the surface.

"Please do as I ask when I ask you to do it," I said as pots and pans clattered in the sink. The tension in the kitchen was palpable.

The eyes of my 10-year-old daughter darkened as she wound up the vacuum cleaner cord. My seven-year-old son swiftly but silently placed the plates around the table.

Admitting our error

In their silent obedience, brought about by my unbridled anger, I saw my error.

Immediately I gathered the children into my arms as my heart broke. "I am so sorry I yelled," I said, burying my face in their hair. "Please forgive me."

And my dear children, who have had to forgive me countless times in their short lives, did -- simply opening the doors of their hearts with big hugs and small smiles.

Tomorrow I will ask for help in a gentler tone when I am stressed, I decided, marveling at the children's readiness to forgive.

God's forgiveness

With such simplicity and sincerity, they reminded me that so does our Father in Heaven forgive us when we come to Him with contrite hearts.

To know that God is willing to forgive you -- and to teach our children to do the same -- is something we need to fully accept ourselves.

How many times do we let our angry feelings fester, to simmer for hours or years even, building a wall of remembered faults between family members or friends?

How long do we go before we avail ourselves of the Sacrament of Confession, letting built-up sins crowd out God's grace in our hearts?

It is the act of asking for forgiveness -- the humility, the act of detaching ourselves from our pride and recognizing that we all make mistakes -- that tames our raw emotions.

My mistakes and my emotions will always be there on the surface. Because I am human, I will never be rid of the ups and downs that accompany them.

Knowing God is there

But the deeper knowledge that God is always there, ready to forgive -- and that He loves me no matter what I feel -- helps me to pray for God's grace, put forth the effort to amend my faults, and have the strength to begin again and again.

To teach our children not only to say "I'm sorry" but "I forgive you" as well is a basic passing on of our Catholic faith.

Only by our example, by observing us asking for forgiveness ourselves -- from them, from our spouses, from our family and friends, from God -- will our children learn to say "I'm sorry" and to forgive others, to detach themselves from pride and to let go of the grudges they hold close to their hearts.

Soon, as Daddy walks through the door, I hear a faint "I'm sorry" rising from the chaotic din downstairs. I take a peek to survey the situation and I hear "I forgive you" as my five-year-old daughter gives my three-year-old son a hug.

Then they move on in their play, my daughter giving voice to a pink toy pony and my son answering with his boyish laugh echoing through the house, his joyful sounds obliterating my previous angry tones.

Looking to the future

In the same way, God forgives us and moves on. We should too, trying not to dwell on past faults, but looking to the future with hope -- and humility -- in our hearts, knowing that we alone cannot conquer our vices, but God can.

If we come to Him with the willingness to begin anew and the resolution to struggle against our faults, He can turn even our defects into an opportunity for growth.

And asking for forgiveness -- with the determination to heroically face our everyday struggles -- opens the door to let Him in.

Julianne Nornberg, mother of four young children, is a member of St. John the Baptist Parish, Waunakee.