The bowl was full. Great big shiny balls of sour goodness, not only in cherry red, but in bright blue and glowing white, too. This was the treasured stash that children who went potty by themselves ran to for an instant sugar high. Until the day Momma was running late. When Lilly walked around the corner and saw me dumping out those precious cherry sours into a plastic bag, she hit the floor with a dramatic crescendo.
I tried to plan ahead and think ahead, but apparently my head never received those messages that day. It was the day of Jake and Lilly’s last swim lesson and I wanted to get their patient teacher a little something to say thank you after two weeks of hard work and teaching a couple of nearly three year olds that it was alright if water got up their noses and the how to float on their backs. I planned to run to the store that morning before their lesson to get him some of their favorite cherry sours. Realizing though, that I had no time to run to the store, I decided to give him our cherry sours and pick up some more for us later. Lilly was not OK with this plan.
I quickly decided it was a good lesson on giving and gently explained to her that we were sharing with her teacher. I told her how special it is to give what’s most precious to us. I remember a lot of tears, a lot of drama, and a whole lot of ‘no’s. Eventually, she wiped her tears and I handed her the bag of red, white and blue cherry sours to deliver to her teacher. I had visions of her not letting go of the bag once we got there, but after her lesson, she handed him the bright colored bag of sweets with no fuss.
Jesus has been working with me on giving out of what I have; not necessarily my children’s candy, but things that He’s given me that I have in my possession for the sole reason of giving them away. Like my time. Or words spoken to someone else’s heart to encourage them. Stuff like forgiveness. Apologies when I’m wrong. Yet, if I’m honest, I’m a whole lot like my daughter who grips these things so tightly like I’m entitled to keep every last one of them for myself.
Twenty-two years ago I met my best friend. I was the new kid who had just moved to the States from East Africa and I was definitely not the cool kid. I met my friend at church and she was stuck with me because we were the only two girls in our Sunday school class. There were lots and lots of boys and me and her. When we ended up in the same class at school, instantly a friendship was born.
We were inseparable all the way through high school and were roommates our first year of college. Something happened that year, though. Neither of us could quite put our finger on it, but it was a slow and gradual tear in our relationship. Like someone had taken that photograph of two young smiling girls and ripped the two halves apart. She moved out. I moved on, without really even acting like I cared. We quit speaking, but only after hurtful words were exchanged.
A couple years would go by and one of us would reach out to the other, yet neither of us would be willing to give what was necessary to heal the severed relationship-an apology and some forgiveness. Twelve more years would go by and our lives would slowly begin to look drastically different than those days of passing notes in English and washing cars to raise money in the summer. We would marry our husbands and not attend each other’s weddings. We would pretend that it didn’t bother us that a gaping hole was left in each of our hearts as we wondered what the other was doing and how life was treating her. When family or friends would ask, “What happened,” neither of us could muster up a response. And slowly, my best friend faded out of my life entirely.
Fast forward to 2013, where God has done quite a bit of work on my heart, massive amounts of healing, and so much growth, I’m quite certain I am not even the same person anymore. I felt God urging me to reach out to my friend who I had not spoken to for the past fourteen years. One morning in particular, she was on my heart. I was away from my kids getting a massage they had given to me as a Mother’s Day gift. For the entire duration of those thirty minutes of relaxation, my friend was on my mind. Taking advantage of a half an hour of silence, I began petitioning to God. I reminded Him of how I had been hurt. I brought up the fact that it had been well over a decade, so it couldn't possibly make any difference now. I told Him that even if I did reach out to her, I had no idea what to say. And then, in the stillness of my heart that I've come to recognize as His voice, I sensed these three simple words: “Say you’re sorry.”
I knew what Jesus was asking of me. He was asking me to reach deep down into my heart and pull out an apology and with it, some forgiveness. As I reminded Him of my hurt, He reminded me that He has forgiven me. I was a bit frustrated that He didn’t tell me what else to say, but as I continued this conversation with Him with soothing classical music playing softly in the background, I realized He didn’t care what I said, as long as I fit “I’m sorry” into it somehow.
Since I did not have my friend’s email or phone number, my only option was Facebook. (Yes, I know.) When I got home, I planned to sit down a write a message to her and I was praying that she would respond. What Jesus knew that I didn’t was that He was talking to her about me in the exact same way…. at the exact same time. As I pulled into the garage, my phone lit up, letting me know that I had a new message.
When I read the honest words my friend had written, beginning with "I wanted to tell you I'm sorry," the dam holding back my tears gave way instantly. What Jesus knew that I didn’t was that He had been doing quite a bit of work in her life, massive amounts of healing in her heart, and just as much growth that she, too, was not the same person anymore. He had asked her to reach deep down into her heart and pull out an apology along with some forgiveness, too. What Jesus knew that I didn’t was that He didn’t have to give me the right words, because I could have copied her message to me and sent it right back to her- down to the very last detail.
Less than a month later, we met face to face in a little Starbucks four hours from my house. For three hours we filled in the gaps and exchanged the story of transformation that God had scripted for our lives. And sitting there with her, I wondered why it took us both so long to say, “I’m sorry.”
On the day I asked Lilly to give away her cherry sours, I knew her Daddy was going to stop at the grocery store after work. I knew that cherry sours (a brand new bag of them) was on his list. When her Daddy walked in that evening and dumped a whole new supply of cherry sours into that glass bowl, her face broke out in a wide smile. God does that with us, too, but on such a bigger scale and with a much more complex purpose.
When I drove four hours to meet with my friend face to face, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that God was asking me to go, even after I had given my apology and my forgiveness. In that tiny little Starbucks, He filled up my candy bowl in the most amazing way. But to leave it at that just so minimizes what He did for me and for this new friendship.
After hours of hearing about what Jesus had done in her heart and in her marriage, I realized that God didn’t just give me my friend back. He didn’t just fill up my candy dish with the exact same thing I had before. When I willingly gave Him what I had held onto for so many years, He gave me something I had never had before. He gave me a completely new friendship, a better one than I had when I was eleven years old or even seventeen years old. It is better and more beautiful and more solid and more precious because there is so much more of Jesus in it now. I love our story, because God gets all of the glory from it. But, it is not the only story out there. This is just what Jesus does when we give out of what He gave. I was so afraid that giving forgiveness would somehow cost me, but Jesus knew it was needed so that He could drop this amazing blessing into my life.
When Lilly’s Daddy dumped a huge pile of sweetness into her bowl, her heart was instantly filled with joy. I bet she didn’t even remember those few she gave away that morning. When my heavenly Father presented me with a beautifully transformed friendship that paled in comparison to the old one, I too, was filled with joy. Overwhelming Joy. Overflowing Joy. Undeserved Joy. Abundant Joy.
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10