As Jolene came to the long table set up at a café for the women’s luncheon, she juggled a vase brimming with a fresh bouquet of flowers and ferns from her garden and sunroom. “Whoever needs it the most today!” she mentioned to the leader, Carla, as Jolene set the vase on the table.
“I think I know who that may be,” Carla responded and pushed a note toward her. “Read this from Rhonda. She’s not here yet.”
The plea came from the widow Rhonda, who had been sharing a house with the homeowner, recently widowed. Because of a bank foreclosure on the property after the homeowner’s husband died, both women were now without a place to live.
Great, Jolene remembered. It would have to be her. I’m still ticked off at the woman for breaking her promise and letting me down when I counted on her. So much for trying to help someone who needed help and extra money.
“I’m sorry I can’t serve for your party,” she had told Jolene just days before the event with one hundred guests and not enough workers. It was too late to get a replacement, “I really wanted to go. But a family event came up and my daughter is taking me.”
It looked like Rhonda was the one needing the help now. As Rhonda sat at the table just as the waitress was totaling checks, distress showed on her face.
But the ladies pooled their experiences and directed Rhonda to just the right people and organizations to help her solve her housing need. The tears ran down Rhonda’s face as Jolene placed the vase of flowers in front of her. “Enjoy them. They should last you almost two weeks.”
Forgiveness is a frequent opportunity in a small town. God must be smiling as he gives residents lots of practice in seeing and working together. Country people continually run into each other everywhere – the grocery store, the post office, the vet’s, the gym or even the local eateries.
But Jesus took forgiveness to another level—and it’s not just for country people. He told Peter that he had to forgive “I tell you not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” [Matthew 18:21] He also taught that “And when you standing praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” [Mark 11:25]
When the author of this blog shared a story at a prayer group from the new release from April, 2015 Chicken Soup for the Soul – The Power of Forgiveness, tears ran down Laura’s face. Was it Jo’s own story of an unfair action that turned into a blessing? No. It was “The Greatest Gift” by Immaculee Ilibagiza. During a political coup in Rwanda, this woman ran and hid for her life while her family was brutally slaughtered. Later when the jailer brought her before the murderer and said, “I brought him here so you could spit on him. But you forgave him! How could you do that?”
She replied, “Because hatred has taken everything I ever loved from me. Forgiveness is all I have left to offer.”
Jesus himself in his last moments before dying on the cross said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” [Luke 23:34]. In doing this, he allowed all who accepted him and his gift of forgiveness to live with him in heaven.
That he would forgive those who humiliated, tortured, and murdered him is unthinkable in human terms – but not in God’s.
For forgiveness is the epoxy of Christ’s character, and can be in ours.
Share your flowers and forgiveness often. If you live in a small town, God will give you many extra opportunities to practice.
[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and website, www.button-to-god.com. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]