KEY SCRIPTURE: Ephesian 4:2-3
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Last Thursday, I filled a further speaking spot at the retirement village, where I normally speak monthly. Just to help a guy out. My sermon this time was about understanding the fine-line decisions we must make between trust and fear and how those decisions became so familiar to our biblical heroes.
But the lesson I learnt came later over our cup of tea following the service.
I was discussing life with one of the ladies when she mentioned that her daughter was coming down from Sydney with her husband to celebrate their 50th Anniversary.
Astonished, I asked her age. I know one shouldn't venture into that minefield, but my curiosity overcame caution, and I took a punt. Although looking years younger, this sweet, intelligent woman was no less than 94 years old.
That's not the end of the story. The thrust of it—that part that impacted me—was how her 'kids' reached their milestone.
After a few years into their marriage, and three kids, hubby decided he wanted to leave home for the single life. Disregarding the pleas to stay, he left them all. Devasted, they slowly inched on with life, hoping their wounds healed. I have heard similar stories too many times, and devastation is the right word. Thankfully, this one has a different ending.
Twelve months later, hubby decided the single life wasn't as grand after all and wanted to return. "Just like that", he thought, "I'll slide back into my role, and all will be well again."
Intelligently (and probably with a bit of "You've got to be kidding!"), the wife refused. But thinking it through, left the door open enough in case he was genuine. She said he could come for Sunday lunch and see if that works first. The lunch went okay. The two younger boys loved having Dad around again, but the older daughter, who knew more about Dad's departure, was cautious, rejecting him.
After a couple of months and many more visits, the daughter and wife were satisfied the return was authentic, and the family reconciled entirely. Like a completed jigsaw puzzle, all the pieces were put back together as if nothing had happened. The family moved past the usual point of no return to thoroughly repair. From that ruinous fork in the road, where most families divide, separate and become two, this one didn't, living happily ever after and even having grandkids. Humility was needed on both sides.
I couldn't help rejoicing. Sometimes, there are so many hurts that the walls built become tall, thick and impenetrable. From there, they begin the war of fiery arrows, like a medieval battle, and reconciliation becomes impossible.
There is a hardness of heart that quickly takes over in rejection. Like a two-pack filler, pride and defence mix into the heart to make it almost rock-like, often taking years, if ever, to soften. Our job is never to let that happen to us, regardless of the suffering, because it impacts our spiritual relationship with our Lord. Despite moving on and seeming free, we still harbour resentment. There remains a part of our heart that has stayed hard, and we won't let the Holy Spirit in to free us up. He can, He wants to, and He will.
Jesus speaks about that hardness in Mark 10:3-5. Though specifically talking about divorce, it could broaden to several subjects. This passage shows us the centre of God's heart and where we should aim ours.
And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.
Depending on the situation, some overcome the possibility of divorce, but many find it too difficult. This couple put the past behind them through forgiveness and humility and moved forward, achieving five decades of continued family life except for that cruel interlude.
It was an enriching few minutes with this nonagenarian (Okay, I had to look the word up). I went to that retirement village to bring a blessing and drove away, having received one.
Praise God for how He moves in mysterious ways.
Dear Lord, please continue to bless the ladies here, and keep their stories flowing. I am getting richer with each visit.
Photo by Drew Coffman