The doctor and I sat by the bed in the health center watching the sweat-soaked ten-year-old sleep. But it isn’t what you think; this camper was not sick, nor was he feverish. Tristan was drenched with sweat and exhausted because for the previous hour, he had been in a blind rage. He punched and he kicked and he spat. He tried to bite my nose. He tried choking the camp director. He tried choking himself. All of this went on until five of us had to carry Tristan out of his cabin to the health center, wrapped in a bad sheet like a straitjacket, him screaming hatred and violence in our faces. His rage continued in the health center until finally, exhausted, the ten-year-old fell fast asleep. The doctor and I watched him while his counselors packed up his things, because this was the final straw, and Tristan was being sent home.
Tristan certainly deserved to be kicked out of camp. This was not his first outburst of anger, violence, and rebellion. But as I sat there in the health center thinking about how awful and tragic the whole situation was, I was reminded of how much we all need mercy. I was reminded of how much blame all of us share. Sins in a community are not isolated, but though this may not have been any single person’s fault, it does not mean we were innocent. If anything, we share guilt and all need forgiveness. Thank God the gospel frees us from trying to avoid our own guilt, and thank God we can ask for forgiveness knowing it is there in Christ.
Father, forgive Tristan for his violent anger and hatred.
Forgive me for not praying for Tristan and for those moments when I rejoice that his being sent home makes my job easier.
Forgive his parents for being in prison instead of at home loving him.
Forgive his fellow campers for antagonizing him and trying to get him in trouble.
Forgive his counselors for responding to him with harsh anger instead of with patient love.
Father, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.