Driving down Highway 14, I stop at the intersection that links it with Highway 5. I see the familiar sign that always draws my attention for longer than normal. And like all the times before, I hesitate, and then continue south. The sign? A normal county road placard that reads, “Macy - 5 miles” and has an arrow pointing to the east.
I can’t do it -- yet. And I haven’t been able to do it for seven years. It just hasn’t been the right time, I tell myself. And if I have my way, it never will be.
“How long, Chris?” My husband’s question from that very morning echoes inside my head. My sister’s Christmas card had arrived and I had tossed it, as usual, un-opened, into the garbage.
I gave my husband, Bob, a very pointed look--one that said, “You, of all people, should know better than to ask me that!”
Seven years earlier my life had been like a soap opera, minus the beautiful people, houses, and lives of leisure, that is. I had discovered that my husband and sister, Julie, had had an affair. It didn’t last for long, but once was too much. I’ll spare you the details of the scene when I found out, but suffice it to say it involved a lot of yelling, crying, and throwing of breakable items.
Both Bob and Julie were repentant and begged for my forgiveness. I wasn’t inclined to give it to either. When I found out about the betrayal, I just wanted to write them both off. But Bob and I had young kids and I didn’t fancy the idea of being a single mother, so I let him stay. But he was on the couch for months. Julie -- well, I have yet to speak to her.
It sounds funny to say, but the affair ended up being a catalyst for good in both my life and in my marriage. It wasn’t long afterwards that I caught Bob reading a Bible. Soon, every Sunday morning he was rolling out of bed early and getting himself off to church. And he changed, too. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but Bob was softer, somehow. I figured it had to be because of all that Bible reading and church-going. So, finally, I went with him one Sunday. And the next.
And before you knew it, I understood why Bob had changed. When I realized for the first time that Jesus had come to earth to save me, Christine Watkins, and that there was nothing good in me that could get me to Heaven, well, I just sobbed like a baby. Life hasn’t ever been the same since.
Except for forgiving Julie -- I just can’t! After getting caught, she used to try to call me on the phone,
“Chris, it’s Julie. I just--”
Click. I’d hang up on her. So then Julie started writing me letters. I read the first couple. Julie wrote about how sorry she was and asked me to forgive her. Honestly, I’ve thought about it. Sometimes I do kind of miss my sister. But then all I have to do is think about what she did and my heart instantly hardens. Forgive her?
But wouldn’t you know it, our pastor started preaching a series of messages on forgiveness a few weeks ago. He’s pointed my attention to verses like Matthew 18:22, where Jesus tells his disciples that we’re supposed to forgive more than seventy times seven times. I can’t even do that kind of math in my head! He’s talked about how much Jesus has forgiven us and how that means we’re supposed to forgive others. I get that. Goodness knows, I was no saint, but Christ forgave me. But still, I have to wonder, when Jesus said all that, did he know that my sister would commit adultery with my husband? Surely, there have to be exceptions to this forgiving thing!
But Bob’s voice from this morning is still in my head, “How long, Chris?” And truthfully? I really think I’m hearing God’s voice.
I take a deep, shuddering breath and find myself slowly saying, “Ok, Lord. You know I can’t do this by myself.”
I turn around on the side of Highway 14. This time when I get to the intersection of 14 and Hwy 5, I turn east -- towards Macy, like the sign says. Julie lives there and I’m headed to her house.
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