Terry cut the conversation short when her friend, Dianne, said she’d pray for her. She’d called her to gripe about having to deal with her mother-in-law, Irene. “I’m sorry she’s sick, but she’s never liked me and I’m not catering to her now. Randy needs to man-up and tell her to leave us alone.” Now she was sorry she’d said anything. Dianne was probably praying for her to have a change of heart.
Diane had tolerated an abusive mother for years. She always forgave her, and even considered herself blessed to care for her when she became terminally ill. Terry thought her a fool. She had walked away from her mother years ago. She didn’t even go to her funeral. She had written her sisters out of her life as well. She was tired of people hurting her feelings time and again. Now Irene, who had said hurtful things over the years, expected her help. No way. Dianne could pray all she wanted, but Terry wasn’t changing her mind. She was a good person to people who treated her right. God knew her heart and she was sure he understood.
Sometime during the night, Terry felt a crushing weight on her chest. She sat up, gasping for air, and reaching for Randy, who wasn’t beside her. She stumbled out of bed frantic for help, but immediately collapsed to the floor. A moment later she stood, surrounded by a bright light, in the presence of God Almighty. “Ohhh, my Lord!” she cried joyously, reaching to touch him, as the glory of his love filled the heavens.
But the Lord didn’t reach his hand to her. Instead he said softly, “My child, you have disappointed me.”
“Wh-why, Lord? Wh-what have I done?” Terry looked into his face and saw his broken heart, but she didn’t understand.
“Did you keep my commandments?” he asked.
“Yes, Lord, I did.”
“Hmm . . .” the Lord scowled thoughtfully. “Did I not say to honor your mother?”
Suddenly Terry couldn’t look the Lord in the eye. “Yes, Lord, but . . . she. . .
The Lord held up his hand to silence her. “Did I say, ‘Honor your mother if she deserves it’?” Terry felt her cheeks burning with shame.
“What about forgiveness?” the Lord asked. “Have you given it freely?”
Terry stood in silent humiliation. “No, Lord . . . I . . . ”
“Well then,” the Lord interrupted, “why should I forgive you?”
“I . . . I . . . went to church, Lord, to worship you,” Terry offered meekly.
“Yesterday?” he asked.
Terry hung her head. “Uh . . . no, Lord, not yesterday.”
“Uh . . . I . . . uh . . .” She was standing before God. He was waiting for an answer. “I . . . uh . . . didn’t get up in time.” She had never known such shame.
“I know,” the Lord said. “And explain to me please about the last time you were there.”
Terry stood mortified, unsure of what he meant. “Lord?”
“The woman in the pew where you were about to sit . . .” the Lord reminded her.
“Ohhh, my God,” Terry murmured, remembering the grossly overweight, unkempt woman. Not wanting to sit by her, she had taken another seat.
“It doesn’t appear that you lived for me,” the Lord said sadly. “I was not in your heart.”
Terry fell to her knees, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Ohhh, my Lord, my God . . .” As she trembled in fear and shame at his feet, the bright light disappeared and she was again gasping for air. She awakened in her bed – fingers clutching the covers, cheeks wet with tears. It took a moment to realize that she’d been dreaming. She couldn’t stop shaking. It had seemed so real.
Terry sprang out of bed and fell to her knees. Shivering with the reality of what it meant to stand in God’s presence, she prayed fervently, “Lord, I am not worthy of your love. Forgive me, as I now forgive others. I give my heart to you, and promise to truly live my life for you from this moment on.”
The next morning Terry planned to visit the cemetery and put flowers on her mother’s grave, then spend the afternoon with Irene to determine what kind of help she needed. But first, she had to call Dianne and thank her for her prayers.
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