Above all, love each other deeply because it covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
As I was standing at his bedside holding his hand, I spoke words of encouragement. It would be a short time before he would shed his earthly body and rid himself of the darkness which had cloaked him his entire life. He held tightly to me with one hand while looking beyond me, as if he could see the door through which he was about to enter slowly opening.
I had gone to the hospital to spend time with him. He was someone whom I had cared for deeply but had caused me much pain and grief. As I stood there, I pondered what it would be like to be on the precipace of leaving this world and entering another, especially with so much “baggage.”
Over the time I knew him, his words had often sliced through my heart, leaving it raw and exposed, eventually resuscitated by others who spoke kinder, gentler words. Our relationship was not one for the books; throughout history the same scenario has been lived out daily in countless codependent situations. My role had become one of pacifier, soother, enabler, do-gooder because no on else in his life did good by him. It was a twisted, tangled web of deceit, instability, and waiting for the other shoe to drop through which we had aimlessly wandered despite which we somehow managed to know one another for many years. His flaw? Mistrust and defensiveness because of haunting childhood memories that never faded. Mine? Pride and needing to be needed, believing I could be some kind of a savior for him. It was an environment of proliferative mental and emotional abuse with occasional respites of normalcy which gave me a weak sense of hope, just enough to continue hanging on.
His weak, raspy voice broke through the silence. “Forgive me?” he asked.
The words tumbled out of my mouth before my usually embittered heart had time to snatch them.
“What is there to forgive?” I replied, trying to convince him — and myself — with a smile.
He looked at me and blinked, then looked away like he had many times before. It was what he had come to expect from me, I suppose, the woman who didn’t flinch, retreat, or say when she’d had enough.
Not realizing the import of my words (after all, I was only appeasing a dying man), one of his family members who had been in the room at the time of our exchange later said, “I will never forget your words to him.” She knew what life had been like for us.
I hadn’t noticed that the words spoke of grace.
But how could I not forgive him? Was he in a position to make up for all of the wrongs he had done against me? How could I, at the moment of his greatest physical weakness and days before he would stand at the final judgment, not give him what he needed, the assurance that he was in right standing with me?
What matters is not the fleeting, momentary impact of the other’s actions and how they affected my life but the eternal impact of my response.
I can choose not to offer grace. I can choose to let the other continue to be, in my mind, a villain and myself a victim. But my choice to shackle myself within the prison of the self-defeating attitude of victimhood drains the God-given power I possess to use my energies for the benefit of others and myself. God does not hold the keys to the prison doors, deciding when I get released. I do.
Calling grace the force that can transform individuals, families, and even nations, Philip Yancey, in his book What’s So Amazing About Grace?, said it is “one of the great, often untapped, powers of the universe that God has asked us to set loose.”
By my own strength, I would have never offered those words to the dying man. Ultimately, those words came out of my mouth because God was extending His grace to me for the benefit of him … and the onlooking family member. It cost God the agonizing death of His only Son, but He rapturously predestined that blood-bought grace so that when I too lie on my deathbed looking into the eyes of Jesus asking Him, “Forgive me?,” I will hear the words, “What is there to forgive?”
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect … 1 Corinthians 15:10
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Pam Weyant traded the harsh Midwestern winters for the sunny South. When she is not spending her time as a freelance court reporter, you will find her loving up her adorable cocker spaniel, hiking, traveling, writing creative nonfiction, or working out. Her passion is sharing her story so others can join her in celebrating the freedom found in a redemptive Savior.