Ephesians 4:32 ESV
I once found myself caught in a sticky situation.
I was a newby.
To make matters worse, I was 26 years old and I wasn’t well ‘schooled’ in the art of seeing pot holes ahead of me.
I wanted to do the right thing, but I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant.
I knew Ephesians 4:32 said, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
We had moved into a small new home in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri and after praying about where we should attend church and visiting a few places, we found a church. My husband was in Seminary and we felt like this was a thriving congregation that was a good fit.
I had three small children and I found out there was a large women’s Bible study that I could attend. The children also had a class that did fun activities. I was thrilled!
After attending for a while two women I met at the study approached me and asked if I would be interested in teaching a smaller group of women at the same time. They explained that the children’s classes were available to several groups who met at the same time.
I hesitated but I was assured they would take care of all the details…they just needed a teacher. We knew each other well enough that they knew I was a seasoned believer and my husband was in Seminary preparing to be a pastor.
After praying about it I accepted.
We met to agree on the type of study and we selected materials. They knew of other women who were interested. Starting out we had a group of 12 women.
Not long after we chose our materials and ordered them I received a phone call from the Associate Pastor’s wife who taught the large group Women’s Bible study. She was about ten years my senior and she was the sole teacher for the large group women’s study.
After introducing herself she jumped right into the reason for the call.
She told me she knew I had started a new women’s group that met at the same time.
She informed me that she knew I talked the other women into joining me to start the new group. She informed me that my efforts to steal group members was completely unacceptable. For the next 30 minutes she chewed on me and informed me my efforts to steal her group members were useless.
She informed me my small group would not be allowed to meet at any time at the church. I tried to explain that I had been approached by the women asking me to teach and she said she knew better. She told me she knew the whole story and the Pastors at the church did not support my efforts to start a new group.
She also informed me I would no longer be welcome to attend the large group study.
She basically refused to let me speak during the call.
By the time she ended the call I was weeping uncontrollably.
I felt like I had been run over by a semi truck. I was still crying when my husband came home.
Because she accused me of being a troublemaker we were suddenly ostracized from being part of their groups.
I was devastated.
I went to see my dad and he said he would pray for me but he also told me, “you must forgive her.”
I told him I couldn’t forgive her because she was wrong. I didn’t start the group. I was only asked to teach.
He said he understood that but I had to forgive her anyway.
That was the first time I was faced with forgiving someone who lied and treated me abominably.
My dad told me it didn’t matter what she did to me. I still had to tell God I forgave her. He told me it was for my own good.
I really really didn’t want to tell God I forgave her. I thought that was grossly unfair. I thought it was wrong that she didn’t even give me a chance to explain how the new group started. I was hurt and angry.
My dad told me that didn’t matter. I still had to forgive her.
So, I gritted my teeth and I told God in the meanest way I could sound that I forgave her. In that moment I was not only angry at the women, and the women who had dragged me into this situation, I was angry with God. I basically told God this woman was a mean cruel porcupine and she didn’t deserve my forgiveness.
I only forgave her because I loved my dad and he told me to forgive her.
We ended up eventually leaving the church because she continued to trash us behind the scenes.
That was over fifty years ago.
Since then I’ve taught many Bible Studies in many churches. I would like to be able to say that was the last time I was treated badly. I cannot say that.
I can tell you that if it happened to me today I’d probably laugh out loud (I have a very hearty laugh) and I’d hang up the phone. I would notify the women who asked wrote me to teach that I would love to teach the class but we would not meet on church property. I might be inclined to suggest starting a new congregation for honest folks.
I’m not so easily swayed today.
I guess I’m saying that I learned that people are flawed but God is faithful.
The only opinion I care about today is God’s opinion.
That happens when you’ve gone through the fire a few times and God pulled you from the flames.
Spiritual Practice: Trust
Tell God you trust in Him alone…porcupines don’t really matter.
In God, Deborah
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