The Healing Affect of Forgiveness*
by Anna Balsamo
Heart Song Worship Center
"Why do you always call me during dinner?" She snapped angrily at her brother. "Don't you know I always eat at this time? Haven't I told you that before?"
Stunned by her outlandish reaction to his weekly phone call, he hung up on her. "Can you believe that sister of mine?" He thought to himself. "I can't believe she was yelling at me all because I phoned her at the wrong time. What the heck is wrong with her anyway? I'm glad I hung up on her. I don't think I have to take that from her. After all, where was she when I needed her? I was stuck at home with both sisters and an elderly father to take care of while she was, well, where was she anyway? All those years she went missing, and never once phoning us to let us know where she was or if she was okay, and now she gets on her high horse and yells at me for calling her during supper! I've a good mind never to speak to her again. Who needs her anyway?!!!!"
Lucille went about preparing and eating her dinner while her anger simmered almost to a boiling point. "I can't believe he hung up on me. The nerve of that man! Just who does he think he is anyway? After all, he's my younger brother and he had the gall to hang up on me! Men!! They are all the same. Always thinking of themselves. God forbid they think about someone else and their needs! I'm 89 years old and I have never asked him for any help, or anything for that matter. I've always taken care of myself and prided myself that I didn't need a man's help. I could do it on my own. Oh, he just makes me so angry I wish I had hung up on him instead!"
She was 87 and her younger brother, Dave, was a mere 84 years old, but their reaction to each other stemmed way back in their youth. Well over 70 years ago. That was when their mother had fallen out the front 4th floor window while washing it and had hit her head on the sidewalk grate and died a few days later. She was just 39 years old and her four children's (three girls and a boy) lives would never be the same. Their father, a delivery man, couldn't support them nor take care of them as he was on the road most of every day. So it was off to a Catholic Boarding School for the girls and a boy's orphanage for Dave. After high school, they were old enough to all live together with their father and then, quite suddenly, Lucille left home without a word. She was 27 at the time and it wasn't until she was in her forties that contact was finally made with her- by her choice. She always had to be in control. She had just married an older divorced man, and at his urging she contacted her brother and his young family.
But deep bitterness had remained in both their hearts. In Dave's because he was left to care for his two sisters and father while getting married after the war and raising three young daughters. His older sister Linda was an epileptic and had been forced to leave the Boarding School and enter a sanatorium because her "fits" (as they were called) had gotten so severe the nuns couldn't take care of her. She lived there most of her life and Dave was the only one to visit her and take her to his home periodically throughout the year. The youngest, Lynn, was only three when her mother died. She never married and again, Dave took her in whenever she needed a place to stay. He even took care of his father, who by this time had remarried. Dave was a godly man and knew it was his duty as his father's son. It was after all one of the Ten Commandments to "Honor your father and your mother." He visited him regularly and invited him over frequently so he could see his granddaughter's growing up.
But the bitterness in his heart towards his older sibling had never gone away. He had stubbornly refused to even acknowledge it even though for the last 35 years Dave had been walking with his Savior, Jesus Christ. He was a committed Christian and even after his beloved wife Arlene died, he continued to put his trust in Him. But the anger he felt towards Lucille was always just under the surface.
Lucille had stubbornly refused Christ for most of her life until she retired from her full-time job and moved two and a half hours away near her youngest niece. It was then that she started to go to church again. She attended a Roman Catholic Church for the last twenty years when after attending a bible study her niece invited her to, she asked the Lord to forgive her and be her Savior.
That was just over a year ago at the ripe old age of 87! But God in His wonderful mercy and grace hadn't given up on her. And now He seemed to be doing something else. He knew the animosity and anger between the two siblings that had held them in bondage way too long. In His loving kindness He was allowing what looked to be just a plain old argument and hanging up in the heat of the moment, to bring about a healing of long held hurts in both their hearts. Yes, this looked to be a fiasco to the naked eye, but through spiritual eyes, Oh boy! What a wonderful, awesome God we serve! Here they were, both of them getting on in their years, and their Heavenly Father wanted to bring peace and healing to both their hearts. "For He came that we might have life and might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10)
But the decision to either forgive one another or continue in their anger was ultimately theirs. Let's see what Lucille and David both decide to do, forgive or keep the anger and hurt?
Lucille couldn't sleep that night. Tossing and turning till she finally got up and decided to read her favorite murder mystery author's latest book, she finally dozed off while sitting upright on her sofa. In the morning she had a stiff neck and her arm was sore from where she was holding the book. She wandered through her morning routine as if in a daze, still angry and stunned by the intensity of it. She sat down to read her morning devotional and pray and what scripture do you think was there right in front of her? "Forgive even as I have forgiven you." "Ugh!" Lucille mumbled to herself. "I'm not ready to do that Lord. You know how irritating he is. Sometimes he reminds me of my Dad." Lucille continued her usual chores which included a visit to the Laundromat. While folding her clothes, she noticed a short leaflet on the counter and glanced over at it only to find it was a pamphlet about how to be Born Again and as if in bright neon lights she saw the scripture she had just read this morning during devotions.
"Aaah!" She quickly dumped her cleaned and folded clothes into the laundry basket and rushed to her car. Now feeling all sorts of emotions, none of which she liked or cared to feel she found she couldn't concentrate for the ride home and even the rest of the day. Once again, that night she tossed and turned and barely slept more than 2 hours. Memories of her abusive father and the sorrow she felt after her mother died were all jumbled inside of her. She realized she felt much anger toward her dad and really had no reason for that same anger she directed toward her brother. Other than the usual sibling rivalries, he had never done anything to hurt her. Could it be that all these years she had really been harboring anger toward her dad and not David?
The next morning exhausted and not feeling like her usual self, Lucille kneeled beside her bed and prayed. "Lord, forgive me for the anger I have held in my heart towards my dad all these years. Forgive me for taking that anger out on David and for not appreciating all he has done for me and my sisters all those many years ago. Forgive me for my selfishness and even my pride Lord. Help me to have the courage to phone him today and reach out to him. Help me to love him with Your love, Lord. Thank you. Amen"
Lucille felt like a heavy load was lifted from her tired heart. She made her breakfast and cleaned a bit singing a new praise song she had just learned. After a little while, she phoned David.
David debated whether or not to pick up the phone. He had caller I.D. and could tell it was his sister phoning. He was angry too." What had he ever done to Lucille? All those years when she went missing and then suddenly showed up - he took her in, didn't he?" He wondered to himself.
But the uncomfortable nagging feeling he felt deep in his belly/heart, wouldn't go away and he knew his anger and frustration towards his sister wasn't pleasing to His Heavenly Father. And so, after a few rings, he finally picked up. Although this was one of the hardest things to give up (his anger, that is!), he knew he would live to regret it. God was calling David to forgive, just as David had been forgiven by Christ. David stepped out in faith, swallowed his pride and before speaking to Lucille, offered up a quick prayer to asking Him for the grace to forgive.
"Hello," David answered the phone. "Hi Dave, it's your big sister." "I know it's you," He answered. A smile was just crossing his lips as he realized she called herself his big sister. He was, after all, 85 years old! "Thankfully, she hadn't lost her sense of humor." He thought with amusement.
"Dave, I just want to apologize for practically screaming at you yesterday when you phoned me during dinner. It was silly of me, but more than that, it was wrong and I want to say I'm sorry. I hope you will forgive me for this and for all the times I needlessly snapped at you and hurt you. You and Arlene were always so good to me, even when I didn't deserve it."
Tears came to Dave's eyes at the mention of his wife, Arlene. Yes, Arlene was a wonderful example of what a Christian life should be like and he often felt he fell short of that himself. But this was his chance to make his wife proud of him and of course, please His Father in Heaven.
Almost choking on his words, Dave answered her, "I forgive you Lucille and I love you."
"I love you too Dave, and thank you for always having been there for me. Thank you for being all that you profess to believe. I have always admired that about you. You walk the walk, and not just talk about Christ."
Still choking back the tears, Dave answered her. "Thank you Lucille. I'm sorry I hung up on you Sis."
"Well, try not to make it a habit, okay? I'm getting too old for this nonsense." Lucille laughed and Dave laughed with her.
That night, they both slept soundly and with a smile on their faces too. Years of pain, resentment and anger had vanished. And although the enemy of our souls, every once in a while wanted to bring it back, they both held fast to the Truth and their relationship flourished. They were glad they had each other - however much time they had left.
Isn't our God wonderful? If only we give Him a chance. If only we would truly realize that, "His ways are higher than our ways." (Isaiah 55:9)
* This story is based on a true situation. The names have been changed to protect the persons involved and some of the story has been tweaked a bit.