Chapter 23

Today’s treats were lemon tarts, coconut bars and chocolate brownies. So many treats, so little time. Undecided on which one to take I loaded a plate with one of each.

“Good to see you have your appetite back!” Susan chided.

I smiled sheepishly. “I’d hate for them to go to waste.”

“Waste or your waist?” she teased as we shared a laugh.

After prayer and singing, we descended the stairs to the smaller rooms.

I moved quickly and decided to sit on the other side of the table. As I watched the ladies enter, I slapped a hand over my mouth to suppress the laughter.

Margaret grinned, “So, you’ve decided to shake up our little group? I see that your true colors are starting to shine through.” She said this with a look of admiration.

Yes, I was starting to feel more like myself lately. I felt much more light-hearted and what was it, joyful? Yes, full of joy. Even though my circumstances hadn’t changed, I had.

Margaret began into this week’s study. She asked, “Why should we forgive?”

Diane planted her hands on her hips, “Because de Bible says so!”

Pat added, “You need to forgive others so God will forgive you. Mark 11:25 says that receiving God’s forgiveness for your sins and forgiving other people is the foundation of your walk with God.”

We all turned to this scripture verse in our Bibles and Pat read, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

I stared at the Dijon-mustard colored walls. I’d never really thought about it like that.

“Just like the Lord’s prayer says,” Shirley offered. “Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” She stopped to see if we were following her.

“Yes,” Margaret said, “we ask God to forgive us like we forgive others. So if you don’t forgive others, He won’t forgive you.”

It made me glad that I had prayed to forgive Rod already.

Margaret said, “We have the example of Jesus whose last words on the cross were: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’”

Sarah had sat quietly through the study but gave me a quizzical look every once in a while as I joked and laughed with the ladies.

Margaret reminded us that this was our last Bible study on forgiveness. “I hope you will all focus on the forgiving nature of God and the love and trust that grows in the heart of the one who is forgiven.” She then closed in prayer.

Sarah gently grabbed my arm and pulled me aside to sit in a quiet corner. “Heather, is this you?”

“What do you mean? Of course it’s me.” Now it was my turn to look at her with a question on my face.

“Well, you seem so… different.”

“I feel different.” Leaning the back of my chair against the wall, I said, “Sarah, when you first met me I was like an ugly old caterpillar. I was crawling along, trying not to get stepped on. But now I feel more like a butterfly. I feel like I can spread my wings and fly.” I held my arms out beside me and flapped.

Sarah laughed a light breathy laugh. “That’s the transforming power of God at work!”

“Sarah, you can’t know how wonderful this has been for me. How healing. How safe.” This group has forced me to look into the past and learn to forgive. How can I tell her what that’s meant to me?

“Here in the women’s group, my cocoon, I was forced to look inside. I was afraid. So afraid. Afraid of fully experiencing…the real pain. I was afraid that I’d… I wouldn’t come out of it. Know what I mean?” Tears pressed hotly at the back of my eyes.

Sarah nodded. Crinkle lines spidered out from the corners of her eyes.

I let my chair back down. “It’s hard to look forward, when it’s looming black behind you. It’s like walking toward a sunset, in a sky of orange and red, but feeling the tall, full clouds creeping up in the sky behind. You know what I mean?”

She looked past me as if recalling her own time of darkness. “Yes, I know exactly what you mean.”

I looked at the small clock on the wall. We only had five minutes left before Sarah had to collect Tessa from the daycare.

“I was full of fear. I felt nauseous all the time. It wasn’t until I released my anger and forgave Rod, that I felt any peace. When I prayed to forgive Rod I sensed an invisible burden fall from my shoulders.”

Sarah leaned over and gave me a warm hug. “I’m so happy for you, my friend. I know that the pain of being betrayed doesn’t fade easily. But if you don’t forgive then you can be crippled in the healing process.”

I hugged her back. Her hair smelled like apples. “Thanks for the coffee break!”