“Edna-Mae is a busybody.” I informed my husband as he stacked chairs around the hall. “It doesn’t matter what’s on at church, Edna-Mae is slap bang in the middle of it. Always interfering, always poking her nose in.
Joe shook his head. “I don’t think you’re being fair, Sheryl.”
I ignored him. “And did you see the outfit she had on tonight? The most awful, floral two-piece and hideous, clompy shoes that went out with the ark.”
“Sheryl.” Joe’s tone was sharp but I hadn’t finished.
“And her makeup was all blotchy as usual. Someone should tell her she needs new specs.”
“Sheryl!” Joe shouted this time and I looked up to what his problem was. To my horror, Edna-Mae was standing in the door-way, a bowl in her hands.
I felt fire surge into my face, a crimson sweat that drenched my entire body. How long had she been standing there? Had she heard anything?
Her face answered my questions. Currents of bewilderment and pain mingled with disbelief and anguish. For a terrible, frozen moment we stared at each other. Her voice when she spoke was a tremulous shadow of her normal strident tones. “Sorry to disturb you. I forgot to take my bowl.” She nodded to both of us. “Good night, Pastor, Sheryl.”
By the time we got outside, she was gone. Joe was furious. “How could you say such things? What’s wrong with you?”
“I’m sorry.” I sobbed. “I just feel under such pressure to do everything right. I’m a third of her age and everything I do, she challenges.”
With tears drenching my face, we drove across town to the tiny cottage where she lived. She wasn’t there and although we waited an hour, she didn’t come home.
I never slept that night. My eyes were red-rimmed and raw as I lay on my face before God. “I’m sorry, Lord. I’ve betrayed the trust you placed in me. I’m immature and selfish and I’ve crushed one of your people. I don’t deserve a second chance, but please give me one. Let me speak to Edna-Mae so I can apologise. Bring healing where I've caused immense damage.”
At 9am, Joe gave me the car keys and I drove to the nearest florist. I was trembling as I walked up the pathway to her cottage, tears splattering the fragrant roses in my arms. “Please let her be there.” I prayed. “Let her be safe.”
I knocked several times before Edna-Mae appeared at the door, her features frail, sad, guarded. I pressed the roses into her arms. “Please forgive me, Edna-Mae. I’ve said terrible things and hurt you deeply and I was wrong. It all stemmed from my own insecurities and frustrations.”
There was a long silence as she lifted the blooms to her face and inhaled their sweetness. “I’ve been jealous of your youth.” She said slowly. “Your energy and passion for life. I’ve been a crabby old woman and said and done things I had no right to do.”
We stood and regarded each other for a while before Edna-Mae reached out a hand and clasped mine. “What a couple of fools we’ve been. Fighting each other when we should be working together for God.”
As I sat in her kitchen that day, God began to heal our relationship. It wasn’t an overnight miracle, but as we talked and prayed, we learned to understand each other; learned to work with each other.
Edna-Mae still wears her floral two-pieces but when I look at her now, I see a woman of God. A woman who knows how to forgive and extend grace. I’ll always be sorry for what I said about her, sorry for inflicting such pain, but also grateful that God allowed me to be caught out.
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