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TITLE: Chance Encounter
By Joel Grissett

This is a true event that occured in my life that taught me two very important life lessons.
1)No matter how badly someone hurts you, there is always room for forgiveness.
2)In the midst of our hurt, there is a loving God who wants to comfort us, and mend our broken heart.
Out of respect for the lady, I have chosen to withold her name.
Any honest critique of this writing will be greatly appreciated.
I looked up, and in utter astonishment I saw her standing a few feet away from me. She was so close, I could almost reach out and touch her. She looked exactly as I remembered her. Petite figure, shoulder length auburn hair, fair skin, and an ever so slight hint of freckles on her upturned nose. The scent of what I recognized as her favorite perfume permeated the air, and as I breathed it in, a thousand memories cascaded over me. Memories of happy times that we had once shared together. Memories of Sunday afternoon horseback rides, and of the time we experienced the innocence of our first tender kiss.

What a difference a couple of years can make, I thought to myself as I gazed at her in secret. This girl had once been the most important person in my life. She had meant everything to me. We had even entertained thoughts of a lifetime spent together. Two years earlier, after having seen her for the last time, I questioned how I could possibly ever go on living without her. She had meant that much to me.

But now, the very sight of her again began to trouble me, and I found myself perplexed by the mixture of feelings I was experiencing. A tumultuous storm of contradicting emotions raged within me, feelings of love and of dislike; of concern and apathy; of condemnation and forgiveness.

As I stood there, mesmerized by her image, my mind raced back to the last time we were together. My heart was crushed and broken that day as she tearfully told me of her condition. She confessed to me how she had yielded herself to the relentless pressure of the advances of her guardian who, because of his jealousy over our relationship had forbidden her to ever see me again unless she gave into his sordid and selfish demands. I simply could not understand how she could yield herself to him the way she did, and yet love me. I could not understand why she had not sought help from me, or someone else that she trusted. But instead she had chosen to take another path. And now, those things that were done in secret were being manifested, and the path she had chosen for herself was now proving to be a most tragic, painful and difficult one for the both of us to endure.

That day, as I held her in my arms she wept bitterly. I felt totally powerless to take away the hurt and pain that we were both feeling. She tearfully begged for my forgiveness. And with our last embrace I whispered to her that I did forgive her, and promised to always love her, and be there for her. Somehow I knew it was a promise that would be difficult, if not impossible to keep. The culture of the deep South in the 1960ís was very different from the way things are today, and the people who were the powers that be in our lives would soon make it very clear to me that a continued relationship between us would never be possible.

A sudden knock on the door announced the end of our final time together. We were being forced apart. She was being spirited away to some distant place where she could bide her time and be spared the public ridicule that was sure to be experienced if she remained. And I was left behind, alone, to deal with the feelings of betryal and heartbreak that would last for years to come. We were to never see each other again.

And yet, here she was. What cruel act in this play of life had brought me to this place of reliving these agonizing memories? Things could never go back to the way they were. There was no chance of reviving the past.

After years of hurt, my shattered and disillusioned heart had slowly begun to heal. As time passed, I finally allowed myself to be open to the tender love of another girl. One who loved me faithfully and unconditionally. We had a wonderful relationship together. God had brought her into my life at a time when I needed someone, and He was using her to sooth the pain that I had felt for so long. This wonderful young lady was soon to become my loving wife.

My life had moved on, and I was finally happy again. But what of her? Was she happy? Had she again found love as I had? In spite of the past, I longed to know that she was doing well. I slowly began to walk toward her, unsure of what to do, much less what to say. But, then I stopped. "Let her go," A voice within whispered, "Donít open old wounds. To much has changed. Things could never be the same between the two of you, even as friends. This encounter could prove to be just too painful for you both." I knew the voice was right.

And so, with mixed feelings I watched as she walked away, and then she was gone. She never saw me. We never made eye contact. I never spoke.

I never saw her again after that day. But some forty years later she is still often on my mind. Where is she now? How is she doing? Is she happy? Does she ever think of me, as I do her?

There will always be a special place for her in my heart. And despite the hurt that our relationship caused each of us, my prayer for her has always been that God would bless her beyond measure, and give her as good and happy a life as He has blessed me with.

I doubt we shall ever meet again this side of Heaven. Too many years have gone by, and too many miles now separate us. There is however one thing I believe to be true. One day we will see each other again. And as we stand in the presence of our Lord, who loved us, and gave Himself for us, we shall with all the redeemed of the ages praise Him for His wondrous love, forgiveness, mercy and grace.
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