Several years ago, when my godson Forrest was a toddler, we enjoyed an afternoon of adventure together every Monday after picking him up from pre-school. Often we’d go to the local library, bakery, or park.
One winter, when Forrest was 3 ½ years old, freezing weather and piles of slush on the ground forced us to come up with a Plan B: Indoor Sledding. Grabbing an old fleece blanket from the couch, I laid it out on the floor, Forrest sat on top. I told him to hold on as I pulled him through the hallways of my home, increasing my speed each time.
After the 6th or 7th round, I made a corner turn too fast and Forrest fell off the blanket onto his side with a heavy thud. When I turned around I saw a pool of blood forming along the corner of his lips. Although I cobbled together a make-shift ice pack to reduce the swelling, I could not reduce his tears and heartache. “What was I thinking?” I said to myself. Long after Forrest went home two hours later, I couldn’t get the question out of my mind.
Later that evening, Forrest’s mother invited me over for dinner. Still feeling guilty, I talked through my apologies as I drove up the gravel driveway. Taking a deep breath as I got out the car, I looked to the front porch and saw Forrest standing in the open doorway with a giant smile.
Before I could climb the steps, Forrest greeted me with a warm hug. There was still a bright blue knob on his lip, but he didn’t seem to mind it or me as he pulled my arm inside to build a tent with his older sister in the living room. Soon after, when Forrest’s father came home and asked how he got the big blue bubble on his lip, Forrest said, “I tripped on the blanket. It’s okay. I’m okay Dad.” And then went about his business. Stunned into silence, I thought, “He has moved on, why can’t I?”
When I tucked him into bed a couple of hours later I told how again him sorry I was and told him that I hoped he would come to “Ea’s house” again (as he called me.) With the matter-of-factness that only a 3 ½ could muster he said: “Yeah, I come tomorrow.” Laughing, I reminded him that he was going to school tomorrow, not my house.
As I did, I could feel the tension in my shoulders give way to the joy of being his godmother. Tiptoeing out of his room, I heard Forrest calling me to come back: “Ea, one more kiss.” I turned around and Forrest smacked a big, slobbery kiss on my lips, wrapped his arms around my neck, and patted my cheek goodbye. Bittersweet tears of gratitude pooled in my eyes.
In the scheme of things, playing a game of Indoor Sledding is nothing to lose sleep about. Nonetheless, I carried a guilt and regret so heavy that it kept me from moving forward as Forrest had. All he wanted to do was shower me with love and enjoy the time we had together. I instead wanted to redo the past. On the drive home my soul stirred. Then it hit me: I had just been given another taste of God’s mercy and unconditional love, especially when I thought I was undeserving of it.
It’s true that to this day I can get so caught up in my own foibles and need for perfection that I forget and ultimately push away the forgiveness and grace God yearns to lavish upon us all. We can’t earn it; we can only receive and embrace it. It occurred to me that if I stopped trying so hard to have it all together and instead accepted my humanity and all its imperfection, I could experience the joy and peace of God’s grace in a much more freeing way.
Ten years ago, when I first became a godmother, I expected to spoil my godchildren with lots of treats and adventures. I gladly committed to praying and supporting them as they grew in faith. What I didn’t expect was that they would teach me what it means to receive and give love. Forrest is now 10 years old. Although we don’t sled around the house anymore, he continues to teach me: how to love, how to walk into the natural changes of life, and most of all—the beauty of letting go.
[Forward Movement provides a For Godparents pamphlet with more reflections on godparenting. – Ed.]
[Image credit: Public Domain, via Pixabay.]
Are you a godparent? What has godparenting taught you?