Growing By Forgiveness
by James Harris
Michael Clark is twenty-two years old. He lived in Paterson, New Jersey all of his life. After having graduated from high school, he plunged himself into the world of work. He had no father that he knew of; he only heard tales of abandonment from his mother who just recently lost her battle for life to failing kidneys. Still, he liked his job working in a factory as a fork-lift operator. He was a young man of simplicity. He had a nice large room he rented, a fairly late model car, a promising bank account and most importantly; he had Karen. They had been dating for a little longer than a year now and each new day made its debut with Karen rhapsodizing his mind with her love for him.
Karen Phillips on the other hand seemed the opposite of Michael. At twenty years of age, she had left her parents home in North Carolina and moved to New Jersey where she stayed with an older sister while she pursued a career in nursing. She was quietly reserved and her love for the Lord was an adornment of her character. She was still baffled at how she had come to take up with Michael but whatever it was that attracted her to him, she had liked it then. Yet, that had been some time ago: she now was focussing her attention on her career and serving the Lord. Things had been getting complex in her and Michaels' relationship and she needed things to go slower but each time she tried to speak with Michael about it, he endeared himself to her with acts of nobility. Karen had to make a decision: and she did.
Michael entered the room he had rented on Howard Street. He tossed his coat upon the bed . He was dead tired and cold on top of that! Yet, even those two things had no measure of comparison to the heaviness that was bearing down upon his soul. As he sat upon the edge of the bed, he wondered how things could have gone so wrong. It seemed like some kind of crazy nightmare; all that he'd ever wanted or cared about had been swept away in what seemed consequential moments.
He looked about his room. It now had a new feeling almost instantly from the time he entered the door.It was oddly empty in a sense.Empty of warmth,empty of joy, empty of the presence of the love Karen left behind to comfort him until her return.
There wasn't much to see in the room. There was a soft cushioned chair next to one of the two windows which looked out onto the street from the front of the house. Along the adjacent wall, a sturdy oak dresser with an attached mirror sat ominously. There was an entrance door, two closets, a television set, some books, a table which sat by the chair and the bed upon which he now sat.
A flood of tears surged within his eyes and he fought to hold them back as he bit down upon his lip. He fell back upon the bed,rolled over and buried his face within one of the pillows. That deep abiding hurt that cut at his heart was upon him again and so was a lingering love that seemed to be calling from a spiraling abyss. The tears flooded now, they would not relent. He surrendered to them and the memories of his former girlfriend which filled his every thought.
Karen was the single most important, beautiful part of living that he had ever known.She had awakened within him feelings which he only experienced when she was around. This frightened him and he had to push away the thought that they would ever separate. Yet now, as his throat curdled and the agonizing sobs escaped his voice, he fought again the battle of torment and despair. "Karen"! He screamed in his mind. He felt like she was walking around in his heart finding new places with hidden tears and releasing them. She had hurt him by exposing to him feelings he never knew he had and God only knows he didn't want them now. Now, he cried tears from newly created wells in a heart that has been taxed beyond measure. Now he felt helpless because for the life of him, he had no control! By her walking away, she created within him a new level of fear: and that fear had begun to make him hate her because she had made him vulnerable for all eyes to see...to see his pain, his nakedness of being stripped of love like a wandering dog: a broken man crying! ' My how she had now made him to hate her.' He thought cynically.
How could Karen plunge him into such darkness and yet, amidst all of the pain that she was causing him, he could still love her? He just couldn't understand why he felt so torn inside for allowing himself to care for her as he did. After all, didn't she tell him that she loved him? Was her love different from the love he felt? Why wasn't she here? If she only knew of the pain, the cold of the loneliness; surely she wouldn't allow him to continue in this misery...but yet, she had and he couldn't help but believe that she knew of his hurt and just didn't care. He hated her more now and the tears were beginning to subside. Something strange was taking place within and it made him feel less caring and distant. He sat up and brushed at the tears that washed his face. His eyes felt puffy and his throat raw and he dared not to look into the mirror for surely he would begin to hate himself also. How could he have allowed something like this to happen to him?
Michael sat upon the bed staring into emptiness as he thought of the last time he had seen Karen. They had been having a heated argument when she stormed out of his room with him begging her forgiveness. She had forgave him many times for his infidelities but this last time: he sensed a difference! She had paused at the door and said to him. "I loved you so much Michael that I was willing to forget about a lot of things you did to me...but you;" She smiled sadly. "Michael you took the part of me that trusted and made me feel stupid for trusting you. You took away the patience I had for you by making me feel inadequate like I was doing something wrong and not pleasing to you...that's not love Mikey; I'm just not sure of what you want out of me...but the one thing I am sure of is that before anymore changes are made inside of me, I'd be better off if I just left." She paused. "I'm sorry Mikey." She continued. "I'm sorry that you didn't see just how much love it must have taken in order for me to forgive you." With that said, Karen walked out of the door and out of his life.
Michael looked upon the dresser at the folded piece of paper which he had tossed there casually when Karen had given it to him some time before. He hadn't been interested in that drivel, he was much to busy trying to seduce her. He rose and retrieved the paper from the dresser. The paper was written like this:
Freedoms Of Forgiveness
1: You are free to do anything you want to but discretion and integrity will shine forth to prevent you from hurting those who you love.
Michael's' head began to spin and whirlwind confusion filled his mind. What did all of this mean? Why couldn't she have just come to him and tell him what was bothering her? She didn't just have to....leave! But, he reminded himself quietly: she did; she had tried to talk to him more than once but he figured that he was so irresistible that she'd soon forget and give in to his ways of charm.
They had been seeing each other for a year now and he finally realized that he hadn't really known Karen at all. His heart hurt and grew more saddened because he now realized that he loved her more than ever. "How much more could he love her,' He thought. ' if he knew the fullness of her person?' Michael stood before the window next to the chair. He looked at the young couple that sat upon the porch across the street. He was warmed by how the boy touched the girls chin gingerly as he kissed her lightly upon the lips. He remembered with sorrow how Karen had caught him in a passionate kiss with another woman and as if she was the one at fault, she apologized and quickly left his room.She never brought it up in conversation since its' occurrence .'Could this have something to do with that thing about forgiveness not persecuting the transgressor?'He thought. But then, he considered that if she had mentioned it , he would've felt untrustworthy and guilt-ridden each time he looked into her eyes. He was thankful that she had spared him that.
What was it that she wanted from him anyway; this stuff about discretion and integrity? Then, it stood on top of his head that he had been wrong in all of what he had considered the ways of a man. He must have been hurting Karen all along but his integrity or lack of it had not once made him aware of it. He thought that she knew that men did this sort of thing before they settled.
Michael stared at the young couple intently as the thoughts were being impressed within his mind about the validity of the things Karen had listed. He slowly lifted the crumpled paper to his eyes and looked at it through forming tears. In the quiet; as a lone tear made its' way down his cheek, he read:If you forgive, you will have learned the humbleness of fallen pride. Suddenly, a clarifying emptiness weakened him as he remembered his thoughts of feeling so in demand because other women liked him. He felt ashamedly stupid. It was pride all right for him to want Karen to compete for him as if he were a trophy. What could he have been thinking? Now, he only had himself to blame for her leaving. When he began to admit this to himself, he began to see and understand with the eyes of his heart, the rest of the things she had written on the paper.
He began to realize that he didn't hate Karen; he couldn't hate her ever and he surely couldn't forget her because he loved her too much : besides, he chose to remember her and how she had opened his eyes to this growing process. How could you possibly hate someone like that? On the contrary, you only wanted the best for them.
It was too much confusion of mixture of what he was feeling and what he knew was right. He knew the feeling of bitterness was far from leaving him but he also knew he would be alright....in time.He knew in time the feelings would relent and the pain would ease. He had to be strong and patient.
The tears ran freely over Michael's' face as he decided that he'd surrender himself to God in obedience. He'd try with all of his heart to search out the treasures that are found in forgiveness he determined.
Michael recalled how she had turned to him one day and clasped both his hands together as she lifted them before his chest in a praying manner. She then looked him earnestly in the eyes and asked him pointedly. "Have you ever accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?
"No, I haven't ." He stammered. "I mean, I just haven't gotten around to looking into it."
"Don't you believe in God?" She continued.
"Of course I do!" He defended. "I just haven't had the time to read the Bible or go to church like I've been planning." He looked at her quizzically and wondered what that had to do with them. As if to answer, she continued. "I've noticed that you have a lot of anger locked inside of you," She paused and gave him time to consider. "You'll never get rid of it unless you let Jesus take control of your life." She pressed on. "You see, you can't get rid of that anger by yourself." She squeezed his hands. "What you need to know is that forgiveness starts the process of cleansing your soul. You see, you'll never get rid of that anger unless you learn how to forgive.Just like Jesus forgave those who beat him and nailed him to the cross to die: Jesus, thinking beyond himself asked God to forgive them for their cruelty to Him. So now, I'm telling you that in order to get rid of the pain, the anger and the fear that has been caused by anyone who've hurt you in the past; ask Jesus to come into your life and help you to learn how to forgive and if you're sincere, he will do it because Jesus says, "I will." She looked patiently into his eyes, kissed him on the cheek and left him to think about what she had said.
Michael lay the paper gingerly upon the bed while at the same time kneeling alongside in a praying position. He began. "Lord, I'm here on my knees to talk to you about some things... I could give you a lot of drama Lord but I'm not like that..." He felt a sudden uneasiness and lifted his head toward the ceiling as he heard a voice within himself speak to his heart reminding him that all of what he called 'drama' and all of what he called 'his years of living', were known to the Lord concerning him and he needed to speak in earnest about those things that troubled him.
He tried again. "Lord Jesus, the truth is that I just don't know how to let go of the reminding hurt that people have done to me in my life...it's like a tape that rewinds and plays continuously about pain and tears and the years its' been with me..." Warm tears, healing tears began to run along the paths made by bitter tears which marked his face and his spirit began to lift. He stayed upon his knees and cried silently for a very long time and then, he spoke again between sobs. "Lord, I don't know how I've grown to become this way but I do know that if you don't help me, the bitterness that's inside of me will only get worse and I don't want that..." He paused and whispered lowly. "Its' already cost me too much ." He was speaking of Karen which only made the tears run faster alongside his face as he listened to violent sobs of anguish as they were torn from his lips. "Teach me how to open my mouth to tell you where I hurt and how to open my heart so that you can heal me! Open my mind and my soul and tear out the anger and the bitterness so that I can learn how to live like a human being O'Lord ...I've needed your help for such a mighty long time and I never bothered to ask you because I felt that even you Lord, wouldn't want to help someone like me..." Tears of a crushed heart seemed to burst forth from hidden places deep within his soul and the process of the emersion of the Baptism that would turn his life towards GOD had begun.