Last week in our Bible study, the kids and I were talking about making restitution. When you mess up, it's not enough just to say you're sorry; you have to do something to try to make it right. There are lots and lots of references in the Bible of people going above and beyond the original incident to make restitution. Noah remembered a perfect example from his own life. About ten years ago, little Noah and his little friend Kyle were digging in our sandbox, and Kyle broke Noah's shovel. It was just a cheap little plastic shovel from a garage sale. His mom (who is perfect), made him apologize. Noah accepted his apology but was still sad that he had no shovel to use in his sandbox. After they left, I told him that I would get him a new toy shovel from the dollar store. But the next day, Kyle and his mom arrived with a brand new metal shovel that was ten times nicer than the one he had broken. We still use it to this day.
After Noah recalled this incident, I called Kyle's mom to tell her that we're still using not only the shovel, but also the message of restitution that she taught us a decade ago. She had absolutely no recollection of it at all, which is another benefit of restitution: once you make it right, you can forget all about it. It doesn't take up space in your conscience any longer.
The very next day after talking about all this, we had to leave Sarah home by herself. She wanted to surprise us by making cookies. She put them in the oven, set the timer, put her headphones on, and forgot all about them. Much later, she smelled them burning and discovered smoke coming out of the oven. The cookies were a black mess, burned onto the cookie sheets, and the whole house reeked of smoke. We were indeed surprised when we got home, but not in the way she had intended. She asked for forgiveness, and I quickly gave it. It was late, and we went to bed (I could smell that nasty acrid burned smell all night long).
The next morning was full of lessons. I realized we hadn't talked about fire safety in awhile, so we covered that first. I asked Sarah what she would have done if the oven had caught on fire. Her answers revealed a disturbing lack of fire safety awareness. After making sure both kids knew what to do in case of a fire, we moved on to the next lesson: what makes a good surprise. I told her that if she wanted to surprise us in a good way, it would be best to do something that we don't like to do, such as vacuuming, or cleaning the toilet, instead of doing something she wanted to do anyway (like making cookies), under the guise of giving us a nice surprise.
And finally, the restitution lesson came. I told her that even though I forgave her, there was a still a huge mess to clean up the kitchen. In addition to the usual mess she makes when she cooks (which is substantial), there were burned crumbs on the floor, in the sink, on the counter, even on the windowsill, because she had tried to scrape the burnt cookies off the pan. It took most of the morning, but she vacuumed, soaked, wiped, and washed until the kitchen was restored. I told her that Jesus made the ultimate restitution for us, that even though we burned the cookies and made a gigantic mess, he cleaned it all up for us. I think she gets it.