A Spiritual Epiphany
I am not holding grudges anymore.
Forgiving Thy Neighbor…A Mother’s Day Gift
Every morning, often before the sun rises, Sophie takes me out for a walk around the block. We acquired this ferocious, fluffy little watch beast because Molly said, “Life’s not worth living without a puppy.” So, every morning, in the rain, snow, sleet, hail, dark of night, or just before dawn, I can be found outside walking with, and cleaning up after, that which makes life worth living for Molly. Actually, I look forward to this special time of the day because it is then that I am prompted to sing and pray and worship. I’m sure the neighbors think I’m nuts. With one hand I hold the leash, whilst with the other I hold the poopy bag and wave it to passersby, on their way to work. I hope they know that I’m harmless…after all, if they dare get close enough to hear me, they’ll realize it’s not screamo I’m belting out…I’m singing songs about Jesus…but would that even make a difference? I really don’t know...LOL.
About a year ago, I experienced a spiritual epiphany. Last spring, as Sophie and I took our morning devo (devotional) walks, more and more I sensed that my communication with God was somehow broken. Something was blocking the spiritual flow. In my heart of hearts I knew what it was. I come from a long line of grudge holders, and holding grudges became a way of life for me, and a way of handling awkward situations. There were people in my life that, for whatever reason, I was unwilling, or unable to forgive. I didn’t even know where to begin…but God knew, and He was prompting me to trust Him and take action. I hadn’t spoken to my next door neighbor for more than five years. I would start with her.
But first I made a mental list of all the people to whom I had to apologize and forgive. Within a couple of days I contacted just about everyone on my list and told them about my epiphany. I apologized and asked for forgiveness, saying, “I am not holding grudges anymore!” I explained that it was part of a plan to restore the flow of communication between myself and God. Each person on my list accepted my apology graciously, although I suspect some thought it lunacy. Gradually that boulder that I had been carrying around for most of my life was lifted…and I knew that it was time to make things right with my neighbor as well. I was ready to take a giant leap of faith, praying that God would honor my efforts with reconciliation.
My neighbor and I were very good friends. She is beautiful, and sophisticated, and she has a powerful personality. I loved our time together. We spent many hours sharing stories, swapping lies, and making hysterical observations. Her laughter was contagious. So many times she made me laugh until I cried. At a time when I needed such a friend, she was there and she was so good for me. I confided in her, and she counseled me with wisdom. Her steadfast faith and boldness inspired me like nothing else could. She was instrumental in the success of my first adoption seminar for A Helping Hand. She loved my daughters and often gave them special treasures. She treated Molly to her first French manicure, and bought children’s books and art supplies for Megan. When Megan began ballet lessons, my friend gave her a framed ballerina picture for her bedroom wall, to remind her that she is special. We were very close…but somehow all of that changed, and we had a serious falling out.
Looking back, I think my friend would agree that some of our exchanges were actually hilarious, but sadly, it appeared that our friendship was over, and I missed my dear friend terribly. Eventually we put our blinders on and the wall went up. We lived parallel lives for the next five years. I knew that my testimony was damaged by my behavior, and I was sending mixed messages to my daughters and to my husband, but there was no going back. It was over, or so I thought.
During my early morning dog walking devos, God began to minister to my heart about forgiveness. As much as I wanted to make things right with my friend, I was convinced that it would never happen. I remember asking God for a miracle, that He would somehow begin the healing process in both of us. Still, in my heart of hearts, I did not believe that reconciliation was possible, and I challenged God to give me a sign. My challenge set a chain of events into motion that would change my life forever. Within a few days, Molly mentioned to me that, as she was walking home from the mail box, our neighbor spoke to her for the first time in five years. She said hello to Molly and commented that Molly was “growing up beautifully”. Was it even possible that she was ready to forgive me? I felt sure that she would have never spoken to Molly in such a way if she was still angry. It was at that very moment that I knew for certain what it was that was blocking the spiritual flow. It was time to clear the slate and begin the process of forgiveness and healing.
Finally it happened. It was Mother’s Day weekend. Following a rather funny sequence of events, I called her and apologized and we had a heartfelt and very tearful reconciliation. She stopped by a few days later and brought me flowers. With kisses, and hugs that I didn’t want to let go of, we vowed never to allow anything to come between us again. Today we are, and shall forever remain, the dearest of friends.
Later that same Mother’s Day weekend, my mother called. My mom and I have always had a challenging and complicated relationship. Mike knows when I’m on the phone with her because he often finds me twisting my hair around my finger like a five-year-old. This was the first conversation I had with her since my spiritual epiphany, and I knew that God had prepared me for this. She began by saying that I wouldn’t believe what had happened to her that day. She was in the activity room at her nursing home and a woman was angry with my mom for taking her seat. The woman shoved my mother and she fell against the wall. My first reaction was to suggest that the woman had assaulted my mother and charges should be filed. But then…have you ever seen a cartoon where someone has had an epiphany and you can hear the sound of angels singing? Well, I didn’t actually hear angels singing, but the thought of it came to mind and it made me smile. So, I immediately retracted my statement and I told my mom that she should apologize to the woman, and forgive her. She should tell her, “I am not holding grudges anymore!”
I reminded my mother of something that had happened to her a long time ago. There was a family who lived next door to us when we were kids. Our neighbor, the mother, and my mom had some kind of disagreement…no one remembers what it was about, or whose fault it was, but feelings were hurt and my mother and her neighbor did not even acknowledge one another for more than twenty-five years. The dads spoke in the yard, and their daughter and I are best friends to this day, but both my mom and her neighbor knew how to hold a grudge. One day after my dad retired and my parents had moved to Massachusetts, the neighbor came in to my office. She said that she and my mother hadn’t spoken to each other in more than twenty-five years, and she was very sorry. She had struggled with breast cancer and there were times when she needed a friend. She said she knew that my mom had faced some challenges, when she could have used a friend as well. She asked me to contact my mother and tell her how sorry she was. That night, I called my mom and conveyed the message to her. My mother simply said, “I will take care of it.” About a week later I got a call from the neighbor’s daughter. They had received a card from my mom saying, “Life is too short…of course I forgive you…and I hope you’ll forgive me.” Several years later when my dad passed away, that neighbor came to his viewing and she and my mother embraced for the first time in more than thirty years. My mom said she felt a great sense of relief and freedom.
So, I reminded my mom of her note to our neighbor, and the sense of relief and freedom she experienced when she apologized and forgave her. To my surprise, my mom took it well. At that point, I gathered up every ounce of courage that I had, and I said to her, “Mom, you are eighty-five years old, you are living in a nursing home, and you’re going to die soon. And when I look upon you for the last time I want to know where you are and that you are alright.” She understood. She said she would apologize to the woman whose seat she had taken, and she promised to do it the very next time she saw her. It was a Mother’s Day gift to all of us.
My heart has been truly changed. I finally understand the meaning of forgiveness because I have experienced it firsthand. I realize that holding grudges can not only make you sick, but it can block the spiritual flow that is essential to a clear communication with God. I realize too that repentance is not a one-time act. It should be an ongoing commitment to put aside our stubborn nature and forgive, or we will never be able to live up to a fraction of our spiritual potential.
I wish you forgiveness, healing, and redemption, and all of the blessings that follow.