"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32Did you ever had one of those years when you were growing up? When everything seems to go wrong? Perhaps you were the target of a class bully, or tormenting by a former best friend. Perhaps it was the year your parents moved to a new town. Whatever the reason, it was the year plagued with loneliness and awkwardness as you moved from childhood to adulthood, not really sure of where you stood or what you really wanted in life.
I had one of those years - 5th grade. Fourth grade was bad too, but not like 5th grade. The year I cried myself to sleep with my mom rubbing my back trying to convince me that someday this would all pass by and everything would be okay.
Usually the tears were thanks to a certain girl named Tina* (*name changed) in my class. Due to the small nature of our mission school, we were the only two in our grade, and Tina felt it her competitive duty to make sure she always came out on top. Being the compliant child I was, I let her push me around, tease me, and hurt me until I was convinced that I was everything she said I was.
I think every girl can understand that confusion when you try so hard to please someone and they just return bitter words. I think everyone knows what it's like to be lonely, to play with your dolls wishing for a real friend. I don't think I have to explain the hurt I felt to anyone. Tina left for the States after 5th grade, and all of 6th grade I dealt with the repercussions of the year of teasing. No longer under her, the hurt turned into anger and bitterness, especially as I realized to what extent her affect had on me.
This story does have a happy ending. In 7th grade, I was assigned a paper on the topic of "forgiveness" for Bible class, and I think that is when I really let the hurt and anger slide away and truly forgave what she did. God taught me a lot as I poured through the Scriptures looking for references to forgiveness. The biggest thing of all: anything that Tina had done to me, had been done to Christ. And Christ not only forgave but He paid the price for those sins. How could I not do the simple act of turning around and forgiving her? It wasn't easy, I don't think - is it ever? But a necessary step. And God wasn't finished with our story yet.
Fast forward about 5 years. Tina and I both returned to Peru, but we went to different schools and rarely saw each other. Again it was a lonely time in my life, but not at the fault of any particular person or persons. I was desperate to know who I was, as a person and as a Christian. At the time I was involved in an active youth group at my church. Each year, we had a weeklong retreat on the beach, and my senior year Tina was in attendance. I remember one evening climbing the steps to a little rooftop area where patio furniture overlooked the beach. It was quiet and peaceful. I saw Tina up there, and as I joined her I noticed a Bible in her lap.
We talked then. We talked about what had happened. We talked about remorse, and forgiveness. We talked about healing. We talking about friendship and moving forward. We talked about where we were today, and how God was working in our lives. I remember Tina sharing things from her heart, showing me some of the Bible passages she had been pouring over and meditating on. I remember telling her about the aching loneliness I felt, and her assurance of God always being there as a friend. There is more to our conversation, and the things God taught me at that time in my life, but they are for another time. What I always love is how God brought things full circle. He took the girl who used to torment me, and seven years later He used her to draw me closer to Him.
To me, that is the beauty of forgiveness.