If you only choose ONE forgiveness activity to do with your child, THIS is it! Completing this obstacle course gets you and your family outside, it requires no special materials, and provides a powerful illustration of the effect not fully forgiving or holding a grudge has on our daily lives!
This activity really stepped on my toes. Forgiveness is hard and is something we have to make the choice to do again and again day after day. I read a book recently that said the opposite of forgiveness is resentment/bitterness. I have never put these two together but that’s what happens when we do not forgive.
“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”Hebrews 12: 15
Introduce this activity by telling your child that they get to participate in an obstacle course but first need to fill a backpack with rocks…big ones, small ones, all kinds of rocks! If you have older children, this is a great opportunity to name any grudges they are holding on to as they throw the rocks into their backpack. When we complete this activity, I tell the boys that the rocks represent grudges we carry around with us.
“What’s a grudge?” they asked. I described a grudge as something that happens when we don’t fully forgive. I tell them sometimes we may not even know we are holding a grudge until we see the person that hurt our feelings or made us mad. When we see them, we have thoughts like ‘I’m still mad about the time they…’or ‘I’ll get even with her someday!’
“Through our obstacle course, you will see that grudges actually hurt YOU, the person carrying them! Not the person you haven’t forgiven or are still mad at.” They still weren’t so sure about this so we got out a stopwatch.
First, the boys completed the course with no backpack, just running as fast as they could! They rode the scooter, shot a basketball, ran up stairs, crawled through a tunnel, climbed up the rock wall, slid down the slide, ran across the grass and crossed the finish line!
After they caught their breath, they put on the backpack filled with rocks and timed themselves completing the obstacle course while carrying around their grudges.
The rocks made a huge impact on the boys’ journey around the yard. They were not able to run as fast as usual and small things that require a little coordination became huge challenges. Perhaps the most noticeable effect the rocks had on their race is when they attempted to crawl through the tunnel.
We talked about how really difficult moments in life are a lot like the tunnel. The grudges we carry around can make going through those times so much harder!
At the end of the race, the evidence was staring us all in the face. The boys’ times were significantly slower when they had the backpack of rocks than without them! So, what do we do with all this?
I do not claim to have this parenting thing figured out, but what keeps coming to my mind during these small teachable moments with our kids is to consistently call out the attributes we want to cultivate! Just continue planting seeds, trying to make the most of every opportunity to point out forgiveness!
When one of my boys says, “I’m sorry” I have been trying to following that up with the question, “But do you forgive him?” When a child says they have forgiven someone, I tell them that I am so happy they have chosen to forgive, as God forgave us, and that choosing not to hold a grudge is going to make life so much sweeter and less stressful; remember the tunnel and the rocks?!
Going Deeper: I can always count on a certain someone to push me a little deeper no matter what we are studying. “What happens when life circumstances cause you to hold a grudge and not really one person? ” Hmmmm that’s a tough one. Really tough. If there is no one to forgive, then I suppose it becomes a matter of how you view the circumstance. After Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and he was standing face to face with them years later he said,
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.”Genesis 50:20
If God can use anything for good, then Ann Voskamp asks who are we to decide if a circumstance is a gift or an annoyance? I want so desperately to get to the point in life where I view everything as a gift…but I have such a long way to go!