Our Kindergarten room buzzed with loud voices and banging toys. I was the lone adult supervising our students; my teaching partner on a quick trip to the washroom. The children played happily; most of them gathered in little groups on the floor, shouting at each other through their masks. Two girls splashed in the water bin, stirring eyeballs and skeleton bones, cackling as they tricked others into ‘drinking’ their potion and then revealing that it was poisoned. Yes, Halloween was near, and spirits were elevated.
I tapped away on my keyboard. This email couldn’t wait, and my students didn’t need my undivided attention. A listening ear and a periodic scan of the room were all that was necessary with this group.
As I reread my words before hitting Send, I heard a disturbance in the corner where several children sat with an overturned bin of building blocks. While I didn’t catch the exact words, the message was unmistakable from the high-pitched caliber of the little voice. Someone was not playing nice.
I swooped in, not wanting the conflict to escalate, but also reining my instinct to intervene. Maybe there was a self-regulatory opportunity here; maybe a problem-solving moment.
With my full attention now, the little girl pointed her index finger and clarified the crisis: “James is being mean.”
James rolled his car that he’d built back and forth, back and forth, avoiding eye contact with both his accuser and the law enforcer.
I stepped closer to avoid disturbing other play or drawing in busybodies. Despite my presence, the accusation was repeated in a louder whine, “James is being mean.”
At this moment, James quietly studied his car; halo intact; no obvious meanness to be found.
“James, are you being kind and friendly with your classmates?” I kept my voice gentle, inviting him to give his side of the story, even though the boy was often on that end of the pointed finger.
“Well…” James finally spoke, still not looking at either of us. “I slipped.”
Both the challenge of deciphering his speech through a mask and the uniqueness of his response propelled me to ask for a repetition of this short statement.
He said it again, matter-of-factly in a monotone voice, “I slipped.”
I held back my giggle, preserving it for the retelling to my teaching partner.
“Well, James, we all slip sometimes. Try to play kindly with your friends, okay?”
James nodded; his playmate, happy with the swift resolution, had already returned her attention to her own blocks. The four-year-old’s admission of guilt, and wordless agreement to change his behavior, had restored equilibrium to the play area.
Banana Peel Slips or Mudslides
We can all learn from childlike simplicity, can’t we? We all slip in our relationships with others and in our relationship with God. Yet, as guilty as our actions make us feel, the solution can be as easy as confessing and promising to change our behavior.
It’s human to slip. It’s our nature. Romans 3:23 says that everyone has sinned [slipped]; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. But every slip doesn’t have to be a major event. I’ve had students in the past whose faces turned up in angry scowls as they denied any wrongdoing at a similar accusation as the one above. Voices would grow in volume and intensity, requiring a much deeper investigation into the details of the situation.
Our response to our own sin impacts how big the problem becomes. We can blow things out of proportion too, but it really is as simple as my little James made it. We confess to our Maker that we slipped. We can go one step further and ask for His strength and resolve to resist making the same mistakes again and again, and then move on with determination, leaving the past slips in the past. It doesn’t matter if it is a banana peel slip or a mudslide, God is more than capable of wiping the slate clean.
“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”1 John 1:9
A Slippery Sorry
When others are involved, we also need to apologize. Upon reflection, I should have asked James to apologize to the young girl whose feelings had been hurt. Sometimes it’s hard to move on without a genuine “I’m sorry.”
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.James 5:16
In our communication with God, He sees our heart, and He knows if our confession comes from a place of repentance, because both are needed. When we confess our slips and tell Him we’re sorry, God picks us up, dusts us off, and sets us back on the right track on our quest to become more like Jesus.
So, if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.John 8:36
Stabilizing After a Slip
Have you slipped recently? Do you need to have a conversation with a friend, your spouse, your child, a colleague? Do you need to confess your slip and ask for forgiveness? Banana peel or mudslide; the size of the slip is not important. Your Heavenly Father is loving and forgiving. He wants to restore you; repair your relationship with both your loved ones and with Him. All you have to do is ask.
There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.Luke 24:47b
We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.1 John 4:16
God wants to live in you! The power of His grace is yours, if you accept it. Does that mean you’ll never slip? No. Even the wisest man alive, King Solomon, slipped. He worshipped idols for a while after God gave him this amazing gift (and having 700 wives has got to be a sin!). His father, David, God’s chosen king, slipped and committed adultery and even murder! The Bible is full of fallible humans who messed up and looked to God for His mercy. One of King David’s prayers of repentance can be found in Psalm 51:
Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sin
wash me clean from my guilt.Psalm 51: 1-2
When you slip, and you will (because you are human too), you can pray a prayer like David’s, and you can have confidence in His promise to hear your genuine confession, to forgive you, and stabilize you, setting you back on the path to righteousness. Isn’t it great to be His child?
See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!1 John 3:1a