Today I am going to post a full chapter from my now published book, My Precious Life. It can be found at Amazon.com, Amazon.Ca, Westbow Press, and many other online book stores. As well, copies will be available through me for residents of Ontario, and some other provinces. And now, Seventy Times Seven:
A Lesson in Forgiveness
The anger I carried inside was making me sick. It felt like a grapefruit-size growth taking up precious space in my body, threatening to annihilate me, and it was directed at my husband. We had recently separated, and it was not amicable. Bill’s verbal abusiveness and alcohol dependence had taken its toll on our twenty-one year marriage.
One day, my sister came to visit. She knew about the separation, but did not know the details. I had shared these with no one. Eyeing me over the rim of her coffee cup, Mary bluntly said, “Patsy, you look very unhappy.” Astute observation, I thought. Suddenly, I was spilling over with words of rage, anger, hate and hurt; all the emotions that made up that grapefruit inside me.
“I hate him so much it’s making me sick,” I told her.
“Have you prayed about it?” Mary asked.
“No,” I admitted, “I haven’t.”
It was food for thought, and I chewed on it for several days before finally crying out to God, “Please help me to stop hating him!” But the feeling was still there. I prayed to be released from the agony of negative emotions my life had become. You need to go to church. It was a pop-up thought out of the blue. I remembered the quaint little church one of our daughters had been married in. It reminded me of a small country church from my childhood.
One Sunday morning found me sitting in a sun-bathed pew, listening to a sermon on a part of The Lord’s Prayer; a prayer I had memorized since my high-school days.
Give us this day our daily bread, was this week’s message. The pastor had been giving a series of sermons on this popular prayer, and I wished I had heard the previous messages. It was comforting being in the hushed sanctuary, hearing the sermon, and listening to hymns and prayers, but when I left, my grapefruit was still with me. The following Sunday, the sermon was on forgiveness.
“Holding hatred and anger towards others can make us sick,” Rev. MacNeill said. “We have to learn to forgive.”
He quoted a scripture in which Jesus told his disciple, Peter, he must forgive, not only seven times, but seventy times seven. I left the church with those words reeling around in my head. My new prayer was, God, please help me to forgive, seventy times seven. It didn’t happen overnight, but gradually the hate began to dissolve, and the grapefruit with it.
I continued going to church, and found solace there week after week. The love I had allowed to be smothered began to resurface, and life became liveable again. One day, Bill phoned to rant and rave about something real, or imagined, as was his custom. I stayed silent until the tirade was over.
“Pat, are you there?” he yelled.
“I am,” I said, “and I love you.”
Where did those words come from? His incredulous, “What?” prompted my next words.
“I love you, Bill, but not in a romantic way. I love you seventy times seven.”
I had found that forgiveness and love went hand in hand.
Thereafter, communication was more reasonable, and in the end we became friends, and remained so until his dying day many years later.
“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21,22)