Nine years have passed since we moved from California back to my home in North Carolina. Right after our move was when it happened. We haven’t spoken since. The vile words flung at me and spoken over my life that night were spewing with curses. Elements of truth were twisted with intentions of destroying me. I later found out she had been speaking these words to others about me for months prior to actually speaking them to me. My heart was broken.
Needless to say, I wanted nothing more to do with her. Why would I ever entertain the thought of allowing this person anywhere near me? The accusations and words she had hurled at me were completely unacceptable! I thought no way. Never. I will never even allow myself to be in the same room with her. I have the choice, and I choose not to be where she is, at all costs.
All of these years of visiting family in California, I’ve successfully avoided her. But over the past two or three years, God has been nudging me to forgive. I would deal with it, pray, and feel like I had forgiven. But then at the most inopportune times, when a thought of her would surface, I would think of all of the terrible things I’d like to do and say if I ever had to see her face to face again. I knew this wasn’t forgiveness. So there I was with God, going around the same mountain again and again. I would stop myself and think, Rivera, you have to find a way to forgive.
My husband’s grandma was having her 80th birthday. Her one request was to have all of her children and grandchildren together for the day. She wanted us all to go to church together, then have lunch and spend the afternoon with her as a family.
So we honored her request. We traveled back to California to attend church with grandma. We were all seated, amazed as we listened to her play the opening songs. His grandma is still the church organist after all of these years, and the only source of music in this little Baptist church. People were filtering in little by little.
I looked up to see that she and her family were coming in. I expected they would, to honor grandma’s request. After all, she’s family by marriage. But I didn’t expect her to sit right in front of us.
God has a sense of humor, doesn’t He?
So there I was with family watching, God whispering, and the discomfort of looking at the back of her head through the entire service. I was in the situation I had vowed for years I would avoid. I knew it wasn’t coincidental. I knew God was forcing me to be in the same room with her.
God nudged, and I squirmed. More difficult than looking at the back of her head or having to look at her face during “seat and greet,” was examining the filthiness of my own heart.
The preacher preached on the beatitudes, and to my surprise, Holy Spirit used his words to begin changing my attitude.
He went straight down the list. “Blessed are… Blessed are… Blessed are… Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
I prayed, “Yes Lord. I do hunger for more of You and to be more like You.”
He whispered, “Then forgive.”
As I sat on that old wooden pew, God prompted me to look inward. It was ugly. Inside, there was bitterness, pride and un-forgiveness. He reminded me how these were not from Him.
The preacher continued, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
Holy Spirit whispered again, “Rivera, where would you be if I had not had mercy on you? I’m a merciful, loving and forgiving God. If you want to be more like Me, you have to extend grace and mercy. You have to let this go. You have to.”
Okay Lord, I hear You loud and clear, but now what! I can’t do this alone. You have to do it for me. Please help. I’m the one who was wronged here, and now I’m the one in the wrong.
I turned the page in my Bible, and my eyes fell on these words, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;”
Ok, I surrender. I really do.
The next thing I knew I was passing a note to her during the prayer that read,
“I’ll keep this simple. I choose to forgive you because Jesus does. I choose to love you because Jesus does. I’m surrendering to Him in this matter. Trusting you will come in time. I can’t help but be cautious with you, considering the words spoken by you concerning me. But I choose to give it all to God and TRUST HIM!
Moving forward, Rivera”
I realized I didn’t need an apology. I didn’t need her to love me back. But what I did need was to have my heart right before God. She may never change, but what was inside me changed, and that was what really mattered.
Scriptures from Matthew 5:6-7, 44