by Sylvia Huffnagle
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Monica rushed to her room to get ready for cheerleading practice. Rhonda would be picking her up in five minutes. As she quickly applied fresh foundation and eye make-up, she looked forward to the fun and camaraderie she would soon be a part of. This was her second year as a cheerleader and she always enjoyed the practices and being a cheerleader at the games was even more fun. She reached for her raisin shade of lipstick and had just begun applying it when a human cannonball burst into her room and landed under her vanity. Her right hand jerked and the lipstick went on her cheek instead of her lips. “What in the world…?” Monica exclaimed angrily as she bent her head to look under the vanity. “Jimmy! What are you doing? Mom!” she shouted. Seven year old Jimmy had a guilty smirk on his impudent little face as he grinned up at his sister. It was obvious to Monica that he was trying to get her goat. “Jimmy! I’m in an awful hurry. Now get out of here and leave me alone.” Jimmy slowly and sulkily crawled out from under the table and slinked out of the room, his expression saying that his sister had no sense of humor. Angrily, Monica rubbed the lipstick mark off and finished getting ready. She hurried down to meet Rhonda, but she was no longer looking forward to the evening, for she was feeling guilty for being mean to her little brother.
“What’s the matter with you?” Rhonda asked as soon as she saw the expression on Monica’s face. “I’ll bet its Jimmy again. What’d he do this time?”
Still scowling, Monica answered, “Aw, he darted under my vanity just as I was going to put my lipstick on. It startled me and I made a red mark up my cheek. I scolded him and told him to get out and now I feel like a meany. I hate to feel mean. It’s really hard… Jesus wants me to love Jimmy, but I always seem to be growling at him. What can I do?” Throwing her hands up in defeat and helplessness, she looked pleadingly at Rhonda for an answer.
“I don’t know, Monica. You asked me that before and I told you, you need to pray about it until God shows you what to do.” Aware that Monica wouldn’t like her answer, Rhonda cast her a sheepish smile.
“I know you’re right and I have prayed, but I can’t get past what he does. I’ve tried hard to be nice to Jimmy. You know how much I want to please Jesus. I meant it when I told God two years ago that I wanted Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. I am acutely aware that God is offering us a wonderful Father/child relationship with Himself, but that we must do our part in order for Him to be able to do his part, like it says in 2Corinthians 6:17-18. I know too that to have a close personal relationship with Almighty God is a great privilege and advantage. I’m not about to get lax at this point, but Jimmy’s always doing something to upset me. Just last week he got into my homework and between him and our German Shepherd, Snoozer, my report was ruined--some of the pages got wrinkled, some soiled, and one was even torn.”
All wound up, Monica flailed her arms and raised her voice, as she continued rehearsing the short-comings of her brother. “What about what happened Saturday night when I was all set to go to the mall with Lisa and Shane. Dad made me take him along. He wouldn’t stay with us. He was always either running on ahead or lagging behind. He picked things up and played with them, made funny noises, and taunted Shane--it was awful.” She declared, throwing her hands up in frustration.
“One time last year, he even put a night crawler in my bed. This stuff has been happening ever since he could walk and talk.” Monica cast a hard look at Rhonda and then blinked.
Giving Monica a sympathetic look, Rhonda said, “I know, Monica. I never meant to imply that it should be easy to love Jimmy, but Jesus said, He is the way. He told you to love Jimmy and He will help you do it. You have to have faith.”
Monica looked upset again. “I didn’t ask for a sermon, Rhonda. I just wanted someone to tell me how to love Jimmy.”
“Sorry, Monica, but I answered you the best way I know how. I’ll not take any of it back.”
That night Monica had a long talk with God before she got into bed. She pleaded with Him to show her how to love Jimmy.
For the next six weeks she went through numerous tests and trials where Jimmy was concerned and then one beautiful late fall day, Monica, Jimmy, and their mom were in the backyard where Monica and her mom were raking leaves. Jimmy threw a basketball at Snoozer. It missed and hit Monica on the back of the head. The impact stunned her for a few seconds and she saw stars. As soon as she realized what happened, she became boiling mad. Since her determined talk with God, whenever Jimmy upset her, Monica would look to Jesus for help before doing anything. Sometimes it worked and sometimes her anger prevailed. This was one of the latter times. Her color heightening, she held the back of her head and screamed, “Jimmy! You are so stupid. I hate you!” With that, she stomped into the house, and headed straight for her room. There, she collapsed on the bed and started crying. Though she had been hit in the head, that’s not what was hurting--it was her heart that hurt. She knew she had blown it big time. “I’m so sorry, Father. I didn’t mean it. I don’t hate Jimmy. He just makes me mad.” A feeling of defeat engulfed her.
Overwhelmed, she dropped her head into her hands and cried softly. In the middle of her pity party she suddenly remembered Luke 17:4--If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him. She found some comfort in knowing that God never asks us to do what He doesn’t do Himself. Therefore she knew that He always forgave her when she said she was sorry after saying bad things to Jimmy. “Thank you, Father, for forgiving me again for talking really mean to Jimmy. Oh, please tell me how to love him.” She thought about the verse again and noticed the part where it says; comes back and says, “I repent.” She stopped her writhing and as she realized what she had to do--she had to ask Jimmy to forgive her. The mere thought caused the blood drained from her face. Slowly she got up and took one reluctant step after another out through the living room and then the kitchen and finally out the back door. Her voice was squeaky as she called out to Jimmy. “Ah…Jimmy could you come here for a minute?”
Jimmy hadn’t seen her come back outside. He jerked around to face her, hurt and fear showing on his eyes. “What do you want?”
Softly, she said, “I just want to apologize for my behavior a while ago, Jimmy.” Her eyes pleaded for understanding and forgiveness. As she walked toward him, she explained, “I shouldn’t have talked to you like that and I don’t hate you either. I get upset with you, but I don’t hate you.” Kneeling down so that she was on his level, she pleaded, “Jimmy, will you please forgive me for what I said?”
Obstinately, Jimmy retorted, “Aw, what’s it matter? I always make you mad.”
A new feeling toward Jimmy stole into Monica’s heart. She held her arms out to him and said, “Jimmy, I’m sorry. I love you. Come, let me hug you. I’ll try to do better, okay?”
Looking incredulous, he warily took a step closer. “You do? You love me?” Tears gathered in Monica’s eyes as she nodded, holding out her arms. Jimmy hesitatingly walked into them. She hugged him tight and finally felt his arms tighten as he hugged her back.
Later, back in her room, Monica very gratefully thanked the Lord. “Thank you ever so much, Lord, Father. Thank you. Thank you. I’m going to try even harder, Father. Please show me how to love Jimmy.”
The answer came. “You just did love Jimmy.”
“Yeah, but I want to love him all the time.”
“That’ll come in time. For now, the way to love Jimmy is to keep you temper and when you lose it, ask his forgiveness.”
“Really, that’s it?”
“That’s it. It works, you’ll see. Walk in love my child.
© Sylvia Huffnagle
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