Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Every Dark Cloud has a Silver Lining" (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (02/28/08)
TITLE: From the Swamp of Shame
By Michelle Roufley
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Seemingly when she was tossed a life preserver it was just beyond her reach. She had asked forgiveness of her husband. Although terribly wounded, he graciously extended it. He showed a force of unconditional love that should have been able to move mountains, but could not permeate her barriers.
Another life preserver was tossed from an unexpected direction. Her ex-lover’s ex-wife extended her hand. Sarah requested forgiveness of the woman who had always loathed her. Mariah acquiesced and suggested Sarah visit a pastor from the church.
Sarah had now taken a baby step toward her own salvation, though still strangled by quagmire. “They wouldn’t want this filth in their beautiful church.” She told herself. She felt too vile to go in. Besides she might see Mariah there. Mariah was dealing with her own demons and Sarah could not be sure that her forgiveness was true, or just something that she was doing to try to work through her own pain. She genuinely intended no more harm to Mariah, and didn’t want to muddy her safe place.
It was a large church however. With urging from her husband, and reasoning that there were four services it was unlikely they would run into Mariah, Sarah agreed and went into counseling and attended church regularly.
She dressed up in fancy dresses and makeup to hide who she felt she really was. She felt like a clown in a costume. She always felt out of place, although the routine became a little easier with each passing week.
Soon Sarah’s fears of coming across Mariah diminished to where she didn’t even think of her that often. Then one day someone clinched Sarah from behind in a big bear hug. Sarah jumped, because she had always given herself a wide range of personal space, never wanting to be close to anyone.
“I am so glad to see you here,” The voice said. It was Mariah, but the voice was unfamiliar. It was happy, and genuine.
Sarah was shocked and muttered an almost unintelligible “thank-you.” She was not sure exactly what she said, but knew that it was inadequate and awkward.
As time passed Sarah and Mariah connected. They laughed and cried together. Sharing common experiences of manipulation and abuse by the same man. They found healing in mutual forgiveness. Still Sarah dealt with great guilt for what she had been involved in.
During a counseling session with the pastor, Sarah confessed that she had made two steps of reconciliation, but she was having a hard time asking God’s forgiveness. The pastor seemed confused by this and asked if she intended to punish herself eternally for what she had done.
“No” Sarah answered hastily not wanting to sound like a martyr, but in reality she felt she deserved nothing but punishment.
For weeks Sarah would ponder the question. Every Sunday she’d feel a need to grab the last life preserver Christ himself had thrown her direction, but something held her back. Then one Sunday Mariah found her and her husband and sat down by them. Then it hit her, she was sitting between the two people she had hurt most in this world, and they had forgiven her. How was it she could accept their forgiveness yet spurn God’s.
That day she prayed for forgiveness as the hymn infiltrated her heart, “He took my crimson stain and washed it white as snow.” She was free of the quagmire at last.
She never forgot, nor did anyone else, the swamp she had managed to become bogged down in. The whispers and stares would follow her in the small little town for a long time. She, however met their gaze. She had truly experienced amazing grace. The three people she had hurt most in this world had forgiven her. Who were they to judge?
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