Simon Jolly was one person I hoped I would never see again. Shepparton was five hundred miles and seven hours away. It was late when the phone rang.
“Is that Pastor Geoffrey?” a familiar voice reached out to me.
“Yes?” I replied suspiciously.
“You’re a hard man to find, Pastor. It’s Simon,” he blurted. “Simon Jolly.”
“Simon!” I exclaimed. “What a surprise.” I lied.
“Pastor, would it be ok if I came to see you tomorrow?” Simon got straight to the point. “I know you probably don’t want to see me. But it’s important.”
He was right. I didn’t want to see him.
“Of course, Simon.” My mind fumbled for an exit strategy. “Six o’clock. But I have to be out at seven.”
The man who came to my door was not the Simon Jolly that I remembered. This man was thin, clear eyes and clean.
“Simon?” I asked.
“Pastor!” The man opened his arms as if to hug. “Praise God! Praise God!” he exclaimed.
“Come in,” I stepped back and allowed my guest to enter. “You look different.”
“Twelve months without a drink,” he beamed.
“Wow!” I led him through to the lounge room. “So what brings you to Shepparton?”
Simon sat forward, clasped his hands and looked very serious. “I needed to see you,” he spoke slowly.
“Me?” I asked.
“Yes.” There was a long pause. “Have you any idea how hard you are to find?”
I didn’t reply.
“OK.” He appeared to make up his mind. “When you were our pastor you did a lot to help my family.”
“It’s my job.”
Simon put his hand up as if to stop traffic.
“No. No.” he said emphatically. “You went way beyond.”
I held out my hand beseeching him to go on.
“Well,” he paused again. “I treated you very badly.”
I instinctively touched my temple flinching at the memory.
“So I’ve come here today to ask you to forgive me.”
There are moments when life stops and a different reality invades your senses. This was one of those moments.
“Simon,” I stuttered. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Well you could say yes!” he stammered.
“OK,” I murmured. “Tell me what’s brought you to this place.”
Simon thought for a moment and then sat back in his chair.
“After you left things got pretty bad for us,” he spoke carefully, as if his speech had been rehearsed. “I was drinking a lot. A lot” he repeated. “Then somehow, Mister Bridges got me into a program.
“Teen challenge?” I enquired.
“Yea, that’s the one,” he smiled
“And you made it?” I asked.
“Ha! They marched me to the front gate that many times…” his voice trailed off. “Anyway, they made me write down a list of twelve people that I needed forgiveness from.”
I bit my tongue. “Only twelve,” I wanted to say.
“That must have been hard.” I offered.
“Too right,” he said. “I started with my first boss. After he sacked me I broke into his shed and through all his tools into the river.”
“Wow.” I replied, genuinely impressed. “What did he say?”
“That’s the thing,” Simon continued. “He put his hands on shoulder, looked me in the eye and said he had been praying for me.”
The revelation did not surprise me.
“Anyway!” Simon shook his head and regained his focus. “This isn’t easy, you know. I’ve done a lot of bad things to a lot of good people.”
Simon faulted as he searched for the right words.
“I spread a lot of bad stories about you, pastor. Blamed you for taking my girl away from me.” He opened his hands in contrition. “I’m really sorry and I want you to forgive me.”
There it was. The ball was now in my court.
“Simon,” I held out my hand which he took. “I want you to have a great life.” This was harder than I thought. “And the past is in the past. OK?”
Simon turned his wrists as if to break something.
“The last one,” he smiled. “They say every time someone forgives one of Satan’s talons gets broken and you were the last one.”
An hour later we stood at the door saying our goodbyes.
“Simon,” I asked “How did you manage to find me in the end?”
“Oh,” he replied. “Teen Challenge taught us how to use computers.” He chuckled at a private joke. “Then I joined Facebook.”
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