A Time to Forgive
By Eva Thompson
The ornament stayed in my hand for several minutes. I read and reread the scrolled letters: “Our First Christmas together.” The Holy Spirit kept telling me this must be sent to Sue and John. I can’t buy this for them. The reality was that I wouldn’t. I placed it back on the shelf and wandered into another department of the store. Two more trips past the aisle of ornaments - two more rejections - and I went home.
That evening the thought came stronger: Give the ornament to Sue for Christmas. Since I had promised obedience to God, I finally said, “Yes, Lord.” At first my “yes” was only a formal submission, but later He turned that small crack in my heart into the joy of reconciliation. The next morning I went to the store and bought the ornament. God has a sense of humor and justice ? the ornament was no longer on sale.
A Broken Body
I had grieved since the summer when Sue, my sister in Christ, my friend, and my neighbor, suddenly sold her home and left for northern Wisconsin, remarried, and then moved to Minnesota. She was angry because I had recently spoken with her about a possible area of sin she might be falling into. The elders had asked me to speak to her about her behavior and the biblical guidelines for a leader - a very difficult assignment.
We had enjoyed a close relationship since the day I introduced her to Jesus. But during that last conversation I watched the door close on our friendship. She backed up, her face became stern, and her words iced the room. It caught me totally unprepared because my husband and I had prayed and stayed through her salvation, growth in the Lord, the death of her Vietnam war-torn husband, and her marriage and sudden death of her second husband. To lose her as a friend felt like the death of a close family member. I grieved. However, I realized that there was something there beyond grief because I hesitated sending her that ornament. James 4:17 says, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” I needed to do some soul searching.
Until Sue moved, I tried to communicate with her, but I couldn’t break the ice. When I saw her packing the car, I slammed that door shut in my mind to relieve the grief. I tried ignoring thoughts of her every day. But losses stuffed in a locked closet will break out (especially when God is in control of the doors in my mind). Mementos of our life together shouted from my shelves; her home was in my view when weeding and harvesting the vegetable garden. Everything reminded me that the friendship was still broken. The Bible gave me direction: I am to love like Jesus. Boy, am I glad Jesus doesn’t leave or forsake me when I sin. In the Old Testament, the New Testament, and today, God says He never changes - He keeps working with His children to conform them to His image. And that is what He expected me to model!
Taking the Medication
Our first letters to each other were hard for both of us to write, but we did write. We were both broken. Sue started by just signing her name at the end of her greeting cards. I wrestled with how to sign my notes and decided to just sign my name also, but doing so left the letter cold. I finally stopped being passive and ended my letters with “Love, Eva.” I felt much better.
Sue and I stand as an example of the falsehood of the saying, “Time heals all wounds.” Jesus Christ heals as He works in us. Another Christmas passed and our longing for the lost friendship grew. I had reverted to using my own power. Then my mind and heart went to the Lord and asked for forgiveness for not having a heart like Jesus. Then, I asked Him to give me His heart so I could put myself in Sue’s shoes and love her like He loved her. God demonstrated that He is able and willing to forge great changes in us.
Sue had great courage and wrote me a letter saying that she understood what I was trying to do for her in that fateful meeting and asked for my forgiveness. I forgave her in a letter, but there still seemed a heart-loss in me. It was more than distance; the bond was not yet whole. We continued to write and share more of what was happening in our lives and kept stating that we missed each other.
It was time. I knew the next step and eagerly took it. “Hello, Sue. Happy New Year…” We talked about everything that was happening in our lives and the need to talk more often. We chatted like old friends, good neighbors, and sisters who had spent much time together - just like before. God didn’t want this to be a shallow forgiveness where people say, “I forgive you, but I’ll never forget what you did; I can’t trust you anymore.”
When we hung up, I sat and praised God for performing this miracle in our hearts. It’s gone beyond forgiveness; the past has been reconciled and I no longer hold anything against Sue in my heart, and she no longer holds anything against me. I am just beginning to understand what God’s forgiveness looks like when I sin. My heart overflows with His peace that passes all understanding. I praise Him for what He has taught me and what He has done in our friendship.
We are planning our first visit. It will have an awkwardness about it, but it will also be filled with hugs and good cleansing tears.God truly is a God of miracles. He is a God who takes us beyond human forgiveness, and stretches us through obedience to experience the joy of reconciliation.
The Best Prescription
Colossians 3:12-17 (NIV) says: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”