Each December, for many years, the Lord gave me a “word” for the new year. The last couple of years, I sought words, but they never came.
The word is GRACE.
Before I had my boys, I knew if I ever had a little girl, I would name her Grace. My grandmother’s best friend was a beautiful woman named Grace, whose face – and life – shone Jesus every moment I knew her. When I was a teen, I said to my grandmother that Grace must have had a pretty special life to be so lovely and loving, but she said that Grace’s life had actually been quite difficult, painful, and harsh. Years later, I finally understood it was those trials she encountered and conquered that drew her closer to the Lord. Just thinking of her today brings tears to my eyes – may we all be like Grace.
As I began pondering GRACE as my word for 2024, on Thursday, we took a short daytrip for our annual lunch with family members. After hello hugs, we went into a restaurant, ordered food, and while we waited, one of them mentioned having a sore throat, but said, “It’s nothing. And even if it’s something, tomorrow’s another day.”
With Tim’s age, I’ve been cautious all through the pandemic, and then with my cancer journey this year, the caution continued. We had already cancelled/postponed holiday visits with other family members because a loved one has covid.
But no one had mentioned any illnesses with this family, so we didn’t KNOW we should have cancelled too. When she mentioned her throat, we just thought she meant her sore throat was allergies, and we continued our meal.
But the literal minute we walked through our front door, she sent a text that said, “When we got home, I decided to get my throat checked and I tested positive for covid. Sorry.”
I’m grateful now that she notified me by text because that gave me time to explode verbally to Tim and not to her. I was so angry. Tim was so angry. She’d had the sore throat for a couple of days and still kept our lunch date, when it could have easily been rescheduled. Not only did she expose us, but she exposed everyone at the restaurant, and at the store where she stopped on the way. We had managed to avoid direct exposure for four years, and her carelessness ended that.
Of course, as soon as we got her text, we showered (which was already the plan anyway just because we had been out and about), washed all our clothes, sprayed with Lysol, etc. And as I write this – Saturday – neither of us have symptoms and pray we won’t get sick.
Yet through all of that, the anger still lingered.
I spent about 24 hours seething, ranting, and raving at every opportunity about her lack of sense, lack of respect, etc. We’re quarantining ourselves for a couple of weeks, so that we don’t expose anyone if we happen to be contagious and we’ve had to let go of any expectations of gatherings with other family members and friends in the coming weeks.
Each night, we read a chapter or two in the Bible, and right now, we’re following an Advent plan that had us reading Matthew 5 last night. When I got to verses 21-30, the Lord convicted me. I needed to forgive her, period. I needed to forgive her, even if … period. I needed to forgive her. GRACE. Show GRACE to her. Just like God did and does for us.
As I thought about all of that, I found something curious. Years ago, someone hurt me deeply. I sought counsel with our pastor, and he asked if I thought it would ever be possible to forgive that person. Without one millisecond of hesitation, I said, “Of course. What right do I have not to forgive someone when God gave Jesus so that I can be forgiven?” And I forgave that person instantly.
Fast forward to this event, and I found offering forgiveness was harder, and I don’t know why. So I’ve asked Him to help me. Help me to forgive. Help me to love. Help me to show GRACE. Help me to see her through His eyes and His heart, not my own.
And He has. I have forgiven her and have released the anger. The weight lifted from me was instant, and now I can go back to enjoying the holidays, rather than wallowing in the negativity.
The more I thought about it, the more I could easily ask and answer, “What right do I have not to forgive someone, when God has forgiven me time and again?” And as I reflect on this past year, which has been so incredibly amazing because of God's mighty presence and His extravagant grace - His gifts - in my life, why would I WANT to hold onto the anger? Let it go and get back living a life filled with the joy I’ve experienced all year long. (My last post, Hitting a Milestone, shares my journey this year.)
I asked Tim to forgive me for all the ranting and raving and He has. I asked God to forgive me for my entire reaction, and because He is faithful, He has.
2024 promises to be an interesting year. Hopefully, I’ll learn His GRACE lessons early. He already has at least one book planned for me to read, by one of my favorite authors: Graceful Influence by Lori Roeleveld releases in March! (You can pre-order now.)