Forgiveness does not mean condoning what has been done. Forgiving means abandoning your right to pay back the perpetrator in his own coin.
- Desmond Tutu
Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. (Proverbs 3:27 NIV)
It’s Mother’s Day and the boys have made cards out of scrapbook paper and pictures from an old calendar. They’re lovely. We’re at the dining room table and my sons present their cards one by one. A couple of the older brothers have written beautiful, deep-heart things. They’re strong writers and the words bring blessing. But Gabriel is quiet and reserved, and I see him sitting there, card in front of him on the table. If I don’t say something, he’ll wait and go last.
“Gabe, did you make a card?” I ask.
He smiles. He walks around the table and hands me his card. It’s purple. It has a bird on the front, cut from the page of April or March.
“It’s beautiful,” I say as he hovers close.
“Read the inside,” he says. His green eyes shine bright.
I carefully open the card. I’m immediately touched by the round, manuscript print. Then I read the words aloud:
I love you.
I love you.
I love you,
I pull Gabriel close and his arms wrap around my neck. He stays there for a moment, and his cheek is warm on mine.
“Thank you,” I whisper.
“You’re welcome,” he says. But when he pulls away, I can see that his face has colored a deep red. He looks around the table at Lonny and the boys and shades crimson even more.
“What’s the matter, Gabe?” I ask.
“It sounds silly,” he says. “The words aren’t as nice as everyone else’s. “ He looks down then back up. “I’m sorry it’s silly. It sounded better inside my head.”
My heart goes soft for this sweet son. It’s true that so far, writing of any kind isn’t his favorite thing. He’d rather build cities with blocks or stretch a marble run from one end of the house to the other or construct a zip-line down the hallway and the steep back stairs. But he’s spoken his heart. These simple words came straight from his center. And this is lovely. I can’t imagine a lovelier, more soul-filling thing.
“Gabe,” I say. “There is nothing silly about telling others that you love them. That is precious. And powerful. Your words brought me blessing. I’m so grateful you put them on paper, for me to know, instead of holding the thoughts inside your head.”
Gabe smiles and a moment later he comes close again. His head settles near my shoulder. I run my fingers through angel-soft hair. He smells of shampoo and clothes dried in the sun. I lift his head just enough to whisper in his ear. “Your card makes me so happy.”
I can see a smile curling the corner of his mouth.
“And I love you. I love you. I love you, Gabe, too.”
Lord, let me never withhold words of affection. Let me spend them freely. Let me speak them over and over. Let them fall like sweet rain on those that I love. Amen.
Shawnelle Eliasen and her husband Lonny have been married for twenty-five years. They have five sons and raise their bevy of boys in an old Victorian near the Illinois banks of the Mississippi River. Their sons, Logan, Grant, Samuel, Gabriel, and Isaiah, range in age from twenty-one to six with Shawnelle home teaching the youngest three.
Shawnelle has been writing for six years, contributing regularly to Guideposts magazine, Daily Guideposts devotional and other inspirational publications. She would say that life with her men moves faithfully, on fast forward. But it’s her heart’s desire, her passionate prayer, to see God’s goodness and glory in the fullness of her days. She longs to see Him in the unexpected moments, unexpected places, changing the ordinary to extraordinary and bringing quiet, sustaining grace.