Rosemary Willis' memory was like a loaded backpack weighing her down, pulling her back. Her memories wound their tentacles around her heart and mind, pulsed their poison through her veins unremittingly. Their sour, invading taste dulled the sweetest things and spoilt the fresh and new flavours of life.
Bitterness and unforgiveness ruled her heart and dictated her character. They crowded out the joys of life. With a strong self-righteous attitude she kept long accounts of wrongs. Things had happened. People had wronged her. She could not forget what had happened and she certainly had no intention of forgiving anyone.
She stared into the future as down a tunnel, dark and bleak, leading to nowhere good, to no resolution. Nothing could undo the past and the past colored everything. She had been wronged and wronged she felt, every day.
The patterns of life kept her sane, the week day routines of home, the Sunday rituals of church. They defined her parameters and told her what to do. She measured out her life with things to do and times to do them.
Church was her Sunday practice. Each week she walked down the hill to the old church. She sat in the same pew every Sunday, ninth from the front on the right hand side. Everyone knew her; everyone knew that she would be there, Mrs Willis, pillar of society, respected church member.
Her sister Janet lived nearby. She had seen Rosemary shrivel slowly to a half-woman who rarely smiled, her mouth set firmly in lines of pessimism. She longed to see her sister happy. She prayed, for the words of God to penetrate, to filter in, for restoration. She prayed for Rosemary's bitter heart to melt, for her to be able to forgive.
It was always the same. When Janet called on Rosemary the talk turned to their father's will and how Donald had got the lot. On the death of their father both sisters were surprised to find that he had left everything to Donald. There was nothing for either of them. The house, the farm and everything else went to Donald and his wife Helen. It was at least twelve years since he had died but the hurt was still raw for Rosemary.
Janet grew tired of hearing Rosemary go over old ground. Again and again she complained that she'd had to skimp and save while Donald and Helen were living the high life. Sometimes she just tuned out while Rosemary vented.
Janet was a religious fanatic, in Rosemary's opinion. She was always offering to pray for people, especially her. She talked about God's love all the time. She said that God had freed her up to forgive her father and her brother. She had moved on long ago.
“It's only money,” she often told Rosemary. “And you can't take it with you anyway. Put it behind you, Rosie. Just forgive them and let the Lord give you his peace.”
But Rosemary would not let go. She clung to her hurts like a child to a teddy bear. She made them so much a part of herself that she felt like a victim. The whole world seemed to be against her. The tunnel closed in around her and she felt trapped. She hoped for vindication at the end of time.
And Janet continued to pray. When Jessica Ronalds was in town Janet prayed that Rosemary would come to hear her story. Jessica had been held as a hostage for three years and she was in town for one night only. The town hall was sure to be packed out. Rosemary didn't want to go but because it happened to be Janet's birthday she went along with her.
Jessica told the huge audience about the cruelty of her captors and her anguish during her ordeal. But then, to Rosemary's amazement, she told how she had been able to forgive them and that she was now in regular contact with them. Tears welled up in Rosemary's eyes and something happened in her heart that night.
The Lord took hold of her rock-hard heart and shone his light in. He brought her to the front to kneel in prayer. A flood of tears rushed out as she allowed God to take away her bitterness and help her to forgive. At last there was light at the end of her tunnel. Her heavy weight fell off and she began to live again.
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