When I was a little girl, I couldn’t wait to go to school! I had two older sisters, and each morning they would ride the big, yellow school bus into town. When they came home, they told wonderful stories about their adventures. One of my favorite stories was about the Halloween parade. It sounded so exciting! On Halloween, all of the kids dressed up, and at the end of the day, they’d parade around in a long line, showing their costumes off! I couldn’t wait to be old enough to join the festive parade.
Time passes very slowly when you’re a child, but eventually, I was in the first grade and eligible for my first Halloween parade! I was so EXCITED!!! All week, my friends and I discussed our costumes. I was going to be a fairy princess. My family didn’t buy costumes—they made them. And the night before the parade, my whole family sat down in the kitchen and worked on my fairy princess costume. I felt like a total star!!!
My father worked long hours as a dairy farmer, and every moment I spent with him was one to be treasured. That night, he sat at the table with a pair of pliers and carefully fashioned me a pair of fairy wings out of wire hangers. I can remember sitting beside him, watching him work. I felt so special! When he was finished, Mom took the wire wings and carefully covered them in pretty lace. She attached two lovely ribbons that could be crossed around my chest and then tied behind my back to keep the wings in place. I’d never seen anything as pretty as my fairy wings. They were simply beautiful!
As my parents worked on my wings, my two older sisters carefully fashioned a silvery, tinfoil crown and a lovely wand. Everyone worked hard—and they were doing it for me. I felt VERY happy and VERY loved. When the costume was finished, I dressed in my prettiest pink dress and had Mom help me put on my finery. As my family admired me, I FELT like a princess. I felt absolutely beautiful!
I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep that night. The next day, Mom took a picture of me in my costume. I felt so proud. I felt even prouder when she told me that she and my aunt would be at the costume parade! They were coming to see me walk with my classmates. Life, at that moment, was perfect!
When I arrived at school, my friends and I showed off our costumes. Excitement was running high! When one of my friends asked me to put on my wings, I did it gladly. I had trouble tying the ribbon behind my back, but I managed it. After I pranced around in my crown and flourished my wand, I tried untying the wings, but the ribbon was in a knot. I asked my teacher to untie it. As she did, she told me not to put on my costume again.
School started, and the morning went SO SLOWLY!!! I couldn’t wait for the parade! I tried concentrating on my lessons, but my eyes kept wandering over to the counter where my fairy princess costume was waiting in a paper bag.
At recess, my friends talked about my wings. They wanted to see them again. We went into the classroom, and even though I knew I wasn’t supposed to, I put them on. Once again, the knot wouldn’t come undone. Once again, I had to go to my teacher for help. Her lips formed a long, thin line. She seemed angry as she untied the knot. She told me firmly not to put on my wings again. Nodding, I went out to play.
The school day seemed to stretch on and on! It was taking FOREVER for the festivities to start! I tried keeping my eyes on my schoolwork, but they kept wandering over to the paper bag on the counter. Instead of paying attention, I pictured my family sitting around the kitchen table making my costume. Once again, I felt pride and excitement overwhelm me. I couldn’t wait to walk in the parade and wave at my mother and aunt! I was sure that I’d be the prettiest fairy princess that ever walked the face of the earth!
As recess came again, I peeked inside my paper bag. My wings were just as pretty as I remembered. One of my friends came over and asked to see them. Reverently, I took them out of the bag and smoothed the lace. They were so beautiful!!! My friend asked me to put them on. Remembering my teacher’s words, I sadly shook my head. I was determined to be a GOOD, OBEDIENT girl. But when my friend asked again, I decided to do it. After all, if I was careful to tie the ribbon loosely, I’d be able to untie the knot myself. My teacher would never know. I carefully put on my wings and crown. I twirled in a circle with my lovely wand. I felt like a fairy princess! I felt absolutely beautiful!
Then disaster struck.
As I tried untying the wings, the knot became tighter. My friend tried to help me, but the knot became so tight that neither of us could budge it. My heart sank all the way to my toes. I knew I was in trouble. I knew my teacher would be angry. And I knew she had the RIGHT to be angry. I had disobeyed.
Feeling horribly afraid and terribly ashamed, I hid inside the classroom until recess was over. When the bell rang, I knew I had to face what I’d done. When my teacher walked into the room, she took one look at me and her face hardened. I tried saying I was sorry. I tried explaining. My teacher didn’t speak. She just took a pair of scissors and cut the ribbons attached to my wings. As my wings fell to the floor, she pointed at my desk and said the most horrible words I had ever heard: “You’re a BAD girl. Disobedient children can’t walk in the parade.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! My mother was coming all the way into town to see me! My aunt was going to be there, looking for me! I had to walk in the parade! My father had made my beautiful wings! I couldn’t tell him that I hadn’t worn them! My sisters had made my crown and wand! What would I tell them?
I tried begging, but she wouldn’t listen. After all, I was a BAD girl. I didn’t deserve a spot in the parade. I didn’t deserve to take part in the festivities. After putting my destroyed wings in their paper bag, I slunk over to my desk, trying not to cry. I was more than just embarrassed—I was devastated. I felt like I’d let my whole family down. I felt like the worst sinner in the world.
When it was time for the parade, my friends rushed around putting on their costumes. I couldn’t join in the fun. I had to sit at my desk and watch. Once again, I tried not to cry. As my chin quivered, the principal entered the room. From my desk, I watched as Mr. Nero walked around, complimenting the kids on their costumes. Suddenly, he looked over at me. Smiling kindly, he sat beside me and asked why I wasn’t getting ready. I was so ashamed that I couldn’t look him in the eye. I told him that I’d been a BAD, disobedient girl. I told him that I was being punished. Gulping a little, I looked up at him. His kind eyes stared into mine for several seconds. Turning from me, he looked at my teacher and said seven beautiful words: “I want this girl in the parade.”
As he left the room, my teacher motioned toward my paper bag. My friends helped me put on my costume, but they weren’t sure how to tie my destroyed wings. Feeling scared, I went over to my teacher. She gave me a long look, and then she carefully pieced together the cut ribbons and tied the wings behind my back. As I walked in the parade, I didn’t feel as giddy or beautiful as I had before my wings were cut, but walking past Mr. Nero, I felt something even better—I felt forgiven.
I’m not a perfect person, and down through the years, there have been times when I’ve sinned. When regret threatens to overwhelm me, I always remember Mr. Nero and my fairy wings. Even though I had disobeyed and deserved punishment, I received mercy. Psalms 85:10-11 says, “Mercy and truth have met together. Grim justice and peace have kissed! Truth rises from the earth and righteousness smiles down from heaven.” I think those verses hold a very important truth. When we sin and ask for God’s forgiveness, God’s mercy meets our sin head on. Grim justice demands that we suffer for our actions, but grim justice and God’s peace have kissed. The truth of the sinfulness of our actions rises up from the earth, but God’s righteousness smiles down on us from heaven.
When we sin, and we’re honestly sorry for our sins, God doesn’t pick up a big stick to whack us. He sends His mercy to meet our sin, His peace to kiss justice into submission, and His righteousness to smile on us. That’s the type of God we serve. He’s not a big, bearded meanie with a bad temper. He’s a loving Father. Back when I was in elementary school, Mr. Nero became a living example of God’s forgiveness. His kindness taught me a lesson about grace and mercy that I’ve never forgotten.
“If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9