I recently spent a day with two of my high school friends. We graduated from our alma mater 48 years ago this very month. Our lives have turned out quite differently from what we had imagined as naïve yet hopeful 18-year-olds.
As we spent the day walking along the historic streets of a small town tucked away along the coastline of Florida, we talked about what our dreams had been as young women and of the reality of our lives now. We spoke of first loves, favorite teachers and shared memories of childhood homes and parentage.
We then turned the pages of our memory books to discuss the early years of motherhood, the challenges of marriage and the loneliness the empty nest brings to women at our age. Much of our conversation was focused on the deep love we have still for our children, who are now in their 30s and 40s. In our hearts, they are still tiny people who might need their moms from time to time!
As the hot afternoon sun gently faded into the cool of the summer evening, we drank our iced tea and smiled across a dinner of seafood and salad. I saw wrinkles where I used to find the sparkle of youth, and I observed gray hair where there used to be ponytails and bows. Our exchange at that sweet moment turned to forgiveness.
Although I knew that one of my friends, "Melissa." had a vibrant relationship with the Lord, I wasn't quite as sure of the convictions of the other friend, "Linda." I knew Linda had been raised in a traditional religious home, but I wasn't sure if she had crossed the bridge from religion to faith; from head knowledge to heart assurance.
We listened as Linda shared some of the hardships that she had endured in life and how she had processed each one through the lens of compassion and human kindness. She spoke of the choice to forgive time after time after time. As Melissa and I fought back the tears, I said to Linda, this dear woman, with whom I had studied geometry and Latin and with whom I had traveled the joyful yet dramatic road of adolescence, "I am so proud of you! There are not many women who would made the choice to forgive as you have forgiven."
Linda assured me that the choice to forgive was as much for herself as it was for the offender. She said she refused to go through life carrying that kind of unnecessary pain and bitterness.
"I often remind myself that I must forgive others because Jesus has forgiven me," I softly replied to this friend of over five decades. "I have been forgiven by Him so I am compelled to forgive others."
We were all wiping our eyes by then with our dinner napkins and expressing silent gratitude for the gift of friendship and for the power of forgiveness. Although we may not see each other again this side of heaven's shores, our love for one another is rich and rare.
I hope as you read my words, you will make a list of the childhood friends who might need you in this season of life. I pray the Holy Spirit will whisper words of assignment to you, and you will set aside the busyness of your life to pray for those with whom you shared your growing-up years. Is there a man who might need to hear about your faith? Is there a woman who might need to be reminded of the joy found in Jesus?
My prayer for you, my friend, is that you will use this season in life to bring hope to the discouraged and peace to the weary. It is, after all, what Jesus would do.
Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. Carol has written 11 books, including Significant, StormProof and Guide Your Mind, Guard Your Heart, Grace Your Tongue. Her teaching DVD, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming.
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