Tonight after a time with our youth ministry small group, I came home to deliver some girls for their moms to pick up here, only to leave again to bring others to their houses. In the short time before I left to do so, I found that a neighbor mom had brought her son over to "hug" Tim--the implication being that there was an issue to make up over. I couldn't get the information from her then, so after delivering the rest of the girls, and since it was too late to talk to the other mom by then anyway, I talked to Tim. I thought he was going to be in for some discipline and I wasn't sure what to expect.
I have noticed since we've been here that since Tim is younger than all the kids except a couple of three-year-olds, and perhaps since he is homeschooled and therefore somewhat different, and/or since he has no siblings playing out there alongside him as they do, that often they will gang together and pick on him. The other day they were crowing with delight at having supposedly won a squirtgun fight against him--five of them, against him alone. I pointed out that it wasn't a major victory, but more like cowardice, for so many to fight against one alone--and asked them why no one took his side. No one gave me any reasons (one said he thought someone would side with Tim) but they all generally gave me a blank look. I wouldn't have minded hearing the truth, if he had truly been provoking them all in some way, in order that I might address it. I do think that they are prone to meanness.
Anyway, when I got home I asked Tim what happened. He said that Parth (one of the small boys) hit him hard on the neck, and laughed. Tim in response grabbed his arm and shook him (bad boy!)...which I addressed. This was taking revenge; also shaking a little boy is wrong and can be dangerous. Still this was only part of the story. Parth hit him because all of the other kids were pelting Tim with water balloons. Tim was on his knees because of their impact, and none of them would stop, and he just lost patience when he got hit on the back of his sunburned neck.
I told him of the importance of forgiveness. We read about the man in the Bible who was forgiven a great debt against his master, but wouldn't forgive another a small debt against himself. Therefore the master took him back into custody and demanded repayment after all. We discussed it in depth and I think he understood that Parth had done only an infinitesimal thing against Tim compared with all any of us have done for which Christ forgave us.
We also discussed the matter of taking revenge. I read to him Psalm 18. This is an incredible psalm as far as I am concerned. I love the fact that the man cries to the Lord and the Lord in His anger comes down, furious from heaven, to defend His righteous man. It is always better to let God do the work--whether it is revenge or forgiveness, whether we see any of it or not, and always hoping that our enemy receives the grace of salvation instead of wrath.
After I read Psalm 18, Tim was somewhat amazed. "Does God really do that?" Well, if it is in the Scriptures characterizing Him this way, of course He does. He asked, "How did people know that God did that?" I had to explain that God is Spirit, that people knew to write it because of the Holy Spirit making it known to them. "Did people really see God do that?" I told him that people don't see Him physically but they may sometimes see the effect of what He has done on their behalf. Then he asked if I'd ever seen Him do it. I got to tell him about a time when I had just become a Christian and we were headed south on I-5. A beat-up old van came up behind us, careening down the freeway out of nowhere. They got practically upon our bumper and were honking and making hostile hand gestures. They finally passed, but just as their van passed us up, smoke started pouring out from under their hood. They immediately had to go over to the shoulder and as we drove away, we saw their vehicle come to a complete stop, hissing and smoking in the distance. I was convinced at the time that God had intervened for us. I also pointed out that if we had taken revenge ourselves instead, maybe by making gestures back, or honking, or ramming their van with our car, disaster could have resulted. Tim, of course, enjoyed that story immensely!
We prayed of course for all who were concerned and Tim's ability to forgive and we will be working in the coming day to see what sense we can make of it. I will be talking with Parth's mom, telling her Tim's side of the story and seeing if she has any more to tell me, telling her of anything I can regarding Tim and forgiveness and anything he can do to make things right from his perspective between him and Parth. I also want to talk to the kids of the neighborhood, trying to find out what reasoning they can give regarding how they treat Tim, and showing them, if called for, their unfairness and unkindness. We need to get to the root of it. I'm not assuming that I've heard the whole story from Tim. Still if Tim is right and honest about how things were getting (and I know these kids and he could be), then he has a sympathetic ear here as well as the ultimate Defender in heaven.
In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears.
Then the earth shook and quaked; and the foundations of the mountains were trembling and were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up out of His nostrils, and fire from His mouth devoured; coals were kindled by it. He bowed down the heavens also, and came down with thick darkness under His feet.
He rode upon a cherub and flew; and He sped upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness His hiding place, His canopy around Him, darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him passed His thick clouds, hailstones and coals of fire. The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered His voice, hailstones and coals of fire.
He sent out His arrows, and scattered them, and lightning flashes in abundance, and routed them. Then the channels of water appeared, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at Your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.
He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my stay. He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me. Psalm 18:6-19