Photo: Bethany Beck via Unsplash

An Act of Forgiveness

Sometimes an answer to prayer comes through unexpected channels, in the course of everyday charitable work.

It was Tuesday and day five of tension at home. The kids were fighting again, this time over a missing hairbrush – or was it who ate the last of the cereal? My husband and I were needling at each other over who filled the dishwasher wrong. I prayed, asking God for guidance or more patience with my family, but was I asking or was I pushing my will — what I wanted, wanting my kids to love each other more, wanting a picture perfect family. I was in my version of the Pool of Bethesda, laying out with my struggle of motherhood for my heart to be healed. I was fully immersed in my own suffering just as the paraplegic was lying paralyzed waiting for the moving of the water (John 5).

A friend came over for a coffee later that week and I unleashed all my worries onto her; I felt so defeated. A passage from the Bible kept coming to my mind: when Peter asked, “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-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22). My friend looked at me and said, "You know what to do." This was my seventy-seventh time. I needed to turn the other cheek, be the person in my family who showed love, who was ready with an open heart, to give a hug instead of criticism, and to show God’s mercy. Why was it so hard for me? My brain knew the road it had to take, but my heart just wouldn't follow. As the days passed, I thought, “God — what about me? When do I get a break, when do I get love, instead of all this arguing?” Was God listening to my pleas? Was he waiting for me to call out to him so I would know and experience his healing love?

Then I had an opportunity to spend a Sunday afternoon with elderly residents at a local nursing home. This is the charitable work our community does monthly, but with life being busy, this was the first one I could make. We did crafts and sang songs with the residents. The volunteers brought along their young kids who aged from 3 months to 12 years old, and watching the children walking around and helping the residents – singing with them, shaking a tambourines or maracas, giving them hugs or just sitting telling them a story – you could see the memories floating back into the eyes of the residents, of maybe their own youth or maybe their own children or grandchildren. As the children mingled with residents, their elders' faces shone for that hour we were there with them. As the visiting time slot came to an end, each resident eagerly asked when we were coming back to visit them again. This is not something that can be explained or described: only that God was there in the flesh, I felt it in my heart. I had a sense of relief in knowing that I would do whatever was asked of me, I was going to bring this feeling home with me, this feeling of God’s presence. What happened in that room? Nothing the outside eye would see. Only people giving up their time to be there to be present on a Sunday afternoon at the nursing home. They were there to be part of a community. And I was so thankful that God had made it possible for me to be involved with this event on that day.

After I left the nursing home and was walking across the parking lot, I surrendered to God. I knew he was with me all along, I just was so focused on what I was doing wrong, that I didn't see what I was doing right. I was exactly how God wanted me to be. My feeling of failure had changed over the course of that afternoon; I felt like I was forgiven and that I needed to stop these negative feelings. My vocation as a mom and a wife are two very important things to me and God let me know I was doing a good job. The sense of peace was overwhelming.

When I got home, I felt God had answered my plea: being a part of a true act of kindness at the nursing home had shown me that I just needed to stop and be a presence in every sense of the word. I had to be more loving and present inside the four walls of my own home. And I was going to seek forgiveness, to seek out God and cleanse my heart of the evil thoughts that had been harboring there, through confession.

I visited my local priest for confession. For true forgiveness, I needed to show forgiveness and teach my children how to forgive. I needed to pick up my mat and follow Jesus.

Dee, Boston, MA