“Hey Karl! We’re heading off to a dinner at church. Care to join us?”
Karl looked at his neighbor and shook his head. “No thanks, Jim, I got something I need to take care of here.”
“You sure?” Jim stood in his doorway for an extra second, hoping for a change of heart.
“Well, okay then. Catch you later.”
Karl sighed, and slowly turned back to his empty home and spent the evening alone, watching television.
A few weeks passed in peace as Karl successfully avoided his neighbor. Jim was nice enough, but Karl didn’t want nice in his life.
Karl had been a Christian himself once. Before the incident in his life that cost him his wife, his kids and left him barely hanging on in this big old house. What had been a family home, full of laughter and joy, now haunted him with a silence that seemed to smother every breath he took. He fought the deep depression his life had become by staying “busy”. There was no time in Karl’s world for Jim, his conversation or his church.
One Sunday morning Karl was unloading some groceries from his car (he found Sunday mornings a good time to avoid a crowd at the store) when Jim and his family pulled into the driveway.
“Guess church got out a little early today,” Karl muttered under his breath.
Jim made a beeline for Karl. “Hey neighbor. Need any help with those?”
“Nope. This is the last of it.” Karl tried to keep his annoyance at the interruption out of his voice.
Instead of heading back to his house, though, Jim started walking with Karl as he made his way to the front door with his produce. About halfway to the door, Karl stopped and turned to his neighbor.
“You need something, Jim?”
“Well, the church is hosting a festival next Saturday and Beth and I were hoping we could coax you out for a little fun and some good food.”
Karl closed his eyes for a second and let the frustration get the better of him. When he opened them again he let poor Jim have it with both barrels.
“Let me ask you something, Jim. When are you guys going to get it through your thick skulls that I don’t want to go to church? I don’t want to go to bible study. I don’t want to go to a dinner or a festival or a concert or any other outing with you, your family or your church! Would you just leave me the hell alone?!?” Angrily, Karl turned and started up the walk towards his door once more.
Behind him he heard, like a whisper in the wind, so quiet he almost didn’t pick it up. “What happened to you, Karl?”
Now Karl was really angry. He spun on Jim and yelled, “What happened to me? What happened to me?!? You know very well what happened to me! You and every other person in this entire town. I messed up, is that what you want to hear? Are you all so desperate to get me back in church so I can confess and repent? Is that it, Jim? For what? For God’s forgiveness? Well, what good is forgiveness going to do me when I’ve already lost everything that I cared about?”
“Karl,” Jim interrupted, “you ask me what good is forgiveness? It’s everything my friend. You think you’re the only man who’s ever messed up and lost his family? You can’t live by what’s happened in the past. That’s what the enemy wants. You’ve already been forgiven, Karl. The least you can do is accept it. Move out of the past and into the future, and don’t look back. God doesn’t.”
Karl was at a loss for words. He turned away and walked quickly into his house, leaving Jim standing in his yard. But he had already heard what he needed to hear. Later that day he knocked on Jim’s door.
“Jim, I just wanted to say I’m sorry for the way I treated you,” Karl began. “I don’t know what came over me.”
“Don’t worry about it, Karl. I’m sorry if I stepped over the line myself.”
“You didn’t. It needed saying. Lord only knows what gave you the courage to ask me what happened to me after the way I unloosed on you, but I’m glad you did.”
“What are you talking about, Karl? I never asked you that.”
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