Chapter 20

Margaret, Diane, Shirley and Pat were already seated in the room. After settling in the same seat as last week, I waited for Sarah to arrive. Apologizing for her tardiness, Sarah took a seat beside me. Her pumps and purse matched the purple of her skirt.

Margaret, her hair pulled back into a ponytail, opened with a prayer and a brief introduction. Then she asked, “Did everyone enjoy this chapter of our study?”

Pat nearly jumped out of her seat. “I loved it. It’s so true. It’s exactly what I’ve been telling Doug. Forgive at all costs.”

Margaret nodded and opened her study book to the page Pat quoted from. She read, “We learn that good things happen not through a refusal to forgive but through the insistence that we must forgive at all costs.”

“Yes, that’s it! We must forgive at all costs.”

Shirley squirmed worse than a bucket full of bait.

Margaret turned to Shirley and asked, “Do you have something to say, Shirley?”

Nervously, Shirley chewed at her nails. “No.”

Margaret pursued. “Do you agree with the statement?”

I rubbed the finger where my wedding ring used to be. No! There are people out there that don’t deserve our forgiveness.

Shirley echoed my thoughts, “Well, honestly I have a real tough time with this. What if someone killed your husband? You are asking me to forgive them?” She put her fingers on her eyebrows and pushed them outward as if massaging them.

Deep in thought, my head snapped up as Diane exclaimed, “Joseph! Now dere is someone who refused to let bitterness and resentment get into his heart. He believed dat vengeance was not his, but God’s. In order to become as powerful as he was he had to forgive.”

Pat said, “Yeah it’s like the play I saw with Doug, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.” She turned to me, “Did you see it?”

Caught off guard, I scrambled to answer, “Umm, no. But I’ve heard it was good.”

Sensing my confusion, Margaret explained, “Joseph struggled to forgive his brothers who had bullied and planned to murder him, but then sold him into slavery. Joseph then spent years in an Egyptian jail. Eventually, despite his loss and hurt he forgave his brothers.”

Sarah said, “There’s a good children’s movie that I have at home called ‘Joseph: King of Dreams’. You can borrow it and watch it with Caitlin.”

I smiled and nodded, “I’d like that, thanks.”

Margaret continued the discussion, “It says here that we must forgive at all costs. What does this mean to you, Diane?”

Diane, always ready with an answer, offered, “I believe it means we must forgive even if we don’t want to. We must forgive even if de person we forgive doesn’t deserve it.”

Why should I forgive Rod for what he’s done to Caitlin?

Shirley timidly asked, “But if we forgive, doesn’t this make us weak?”

Shirley had a point there.

Pat said, “Of course not! Why would you ask that?”

Margaret interrupted, “No, Shirley’s question is a good one. Does it make us look weak?”

Pat answered, “When Joseph finally forgave his brothers, it was a sign of strength not weakness. I’m sure the hurt didn’t disappear, but the burden of being their judge fell away.”

Margaret looked directly at me.

“Well, I wonder too. In my case…” I couldn’t finish the sentence.

Margaret’s eyes looked deep into my own, encouraging me to continue talking.

“Well, my situation is different. I recently found out some horrific news. I’m afraid that I can’t forgive in this case.”

Shirley shot me a quizzical look. No one talked. My eyes welled with tears. I said, “My ex-husband molested my young daughter.” I felt the heat of embarrassment creep up my neck. I looked around the table, afraid that I’d said too much.

Pat gasped and placed her hands over her mouth. Diane shook her head side to side and reached over to put her hand over my own. Sarah had a thread of understanding in her eyes. Margaret sat statue still.

With a knot of tension in my chest, I flipped the pages of my study book. “It says here, ‘We must forgive at all costs.’ What are the costs? Others may think that the abuse never happened. Others may think that my child’s a liar. That I’m a liar. Others may think that Rod isn’t such a bad person. That I’m a bad person.” I stopped and let the tightness in my throat ease. “I don’t want to condone his actions.”

Diane interrupted, “But Header, forgiving doesn’t excuse him for doing wrong.”

The others nodded in agreement. Diane continued, “You cannot change dem, you can only change yourself. To change yourself, you must forgive. Release de beast of anger and unforgiveness. It’s a much cheaper price to pay den de expense of carrying dem within your heart.”

“You know, Diane, you’re right. I want to believe you, but it’s hard.” My words were barely audible.

“Dat’s right, Header. To forgive is not easy. But ask God to help you to forgive your ex-husband. Of course you can’t do dis alone. It’s not a natural act. You need God to help you. Trust Him. De only way to do dis is with the power of de Holy Spirit.”

“How do I access this power?” I wasn’t sure that this was something I would believe.

Inspired, Margaret moved forward, “Can we pray for you?”

My emotions darted around me. I smoothed my hair and slowly nodded my consent. As I leaned against the back of the chair, the ladies stood and surrounded me, seeming to create a protective embrace against the hurt and the doubts.

Each put her hand on my shoulders as I stared at the floor. It was a pattern of dark and light tiles in a checkerboard pattern. I closed my eyes and listened to the melody of their voices. They prayed aloud for God to help me to forgive Rod. They prayed for healing of our relationship. They prayed for me to let go of bitterness. They prayed for Caitlin. My nose tingled and a tear escaped from the corner of my eye.

Yes, Lord I want to forgive. Yes, God I want to be free. I need Your power.

With these prayers, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. A small measure of hope sparked in my heart.