I’ve had this story in mind to share for a couple weeks now, but I’ve been putting it off, because sharing this story requires me to confess that sometimes I feed my kids Jell-O. I realize there’s very little nutritional value in Jell-O. It’s full of red dye number something-or-other and all sorts of terrible stuff. I think it might be gluten-free, or at least kind of gluten-free, for what it’s worth. Does that count for anything?
No? Okay. Well, I tried.
After three hundred “no’s” in the grocery store, once in a while you end up saying “yes” to Jell-O. You can’t win them all, I guess.
The plus side of being a mom who occasionally has Jell-O in the fridge, is this:
Sometimes, if you look closely enough, you see Jesus in your Jell-O.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking—gee, perhaps this lady has had too much Jell-O—but stay with me. This isn’t one of those situations where the face of Jesus appeared in a carton of Jell-O. I can explain. Really. Allow me to set the scene for you.
One recent afternoon, I had to tell one of my children, “No.” The child in question saw this as a major transgression and proceeded to completely lose it. There was a full-on tantrum which lasted for—oh, I don’t know—eternity, it seemed. The tantrum went on way longer than the very minor situation warranted. We were at home, so I tried to keep my cool and let the tantrum play out, but it didn’t seem like it was slowing down anytime soon. At one point I wasn’t sure what else to do, so I bent down to the child and said, “You are letting this one small thing ruin your entire day. You can continue to be upset about it, and have a bad day. Or, you can calm down, eat a snack, and move on. I can’t make the choice for you. You have to choose if you’re going to let this ruin your day, or if you’re going to have a good day. Let me know what you decide.”
More screaming, more crying, and more pouting ensued. Then, after the longest time, there was an eery silence. I froze like a deer in the headlights, as if moving might make the tantrum erupt all over again. I’ll never forget the three little words I heard next.
“I choose Jell-O.” Hiccup.
“What?” I asked, still leery and standing in my statue pose.
Sniff. “For the snack. I choose Jell-O.”
Just like that, it was over. We had a quick little chat, then the kid ate some Jell-O and moved on to have a great day as if the whole ordeal never happened.
Again and again, I have these moments when my kids open my eyes to why Jesus said we must become like little children. This is for sure one of those moments.
In this scenario, my child felt wronged—really wronged—when I said, “No.” This child was extremely angry with me. I’ll bet, when in the throes of the tantrum, this child thought they’d never forgive me; that they’d be angry with me forever.
Then this little one saw the truth, and realized that staying angry was only going to be self-destructive. It was only going to waste an otherwise perfectly good day. So this little child chose Jell-O, and just like that, all was forgiven. It was over, and it hasn’t been brought up since.
I wonder if my little one even remembers what started the tantrum in the first place. What seemed monumental in the moment is now water under the bridge.
As an adult, I have to admit I usually do remember why I feel wronged. I usually remember quite clearly why I’m angry. I tend to dwell on these transgressions for far too long. I have trouble making a deliberate choice to “choose Jell-O” and move on—and yet, that’s exactly what Jesus would have me to do with my anger.
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. (Mark 11:25)
Jesus would have me “choose Jell-O” whether or not it’s deserved. I am called to forgive, because I was given undeserved forgiveness.
Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
Jesus would have me choose Jell-O over, and over, and over again. There is no limit to how many times I’m called to forgive.
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:22)
Jesus would have me choose Jell-O because choosing to hold on to anger will only serve to destroy me from the inside out. Choosing to stay angry will only waste my otherwise perfectly good days here on Earth.
“…And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11)
Jesus would have me choose Jell-O even when it comes to dealing with my enemy.
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you… (Luke 6:27)
Jesus would have me choose Jell-O because the biggest transgression I can imagine is still small in light of eternity.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
“I choose Jell-O.” It seems so simple, but sometimes the simplest things are the hardest of all. It’s hard to choose forgiveness on a regular basis, over and over again. It’s hard to let go of anger when I’m offended by critical words; it’s hard to let go of bitterness when I feel unappreciated; it’s hard to take a posture of forgiveness when I’ve been wronged.
It’s hard work choosing Jell-O.
It’s hard, but it’s so incredibly important.
Thank you, Lord, for looking past my shortcomings and giving me undeserved mercy. Forgive me for the times when I’ve withheld mercy from others. Help me to stay alert and to reject Satan’s attempts to drag me toward anger and bitterness. Help me to overcome my pride and forgive often and quickly, just as you’ve forgiven me. Help me to “choose Jell-O.” I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.