There once was a sweet elderly woman who called the office looking for books. The Lord gave me a love that delighted in her, and soon she was calling quite often, sometimes 3 or 4 times a week. By the second call, I realized that this woman barely stopped talking long enough to draw breath. Her words were unstoppable. When I tried to break in, usually attempting to answer a question she’d asked me, the words never faltered – they flooded on, drowning my voice – and I gradually stopped speaking.
The love that God gave me for this woman never faltered, but now I was actively praying for grace for every call. Her words hammered at my spirit, and the total disinterest in my person really hurt. I was just a set of ears, there to serve her and her alone.
Then one day she invited me to join her for a week in Florida. Since I was unmarried and had no children, this would no doubt be a real treat for me. I was completely stunned. This lonely, troubled woman believed that these phone calls – despite their one-sided nature – constituted relationship. I didn’t know what to do or think, so I demurred making a straight answer until I could get quiet.
Once I got off the phone, I began to panic. And it wasn’t just the minor panic of knowing I was going to hurt someone’s feelings by telling them “no.” No, this was a full-on flurry of fear. I felt hunted and trapped. A feeling of impending doom sat on my shoulders and got heavier with every passing day. I was terrified of an 85 year old woman who lives halfway across the country and owns neither car nor computer. Yes, you read that right.
Even as I write this, I want to guffaw over the absurdity of that fear, but I cannot stress enough how absolutely REAL it was. It all came to a head last week, when I finally talked to John and Martha about the situation. I sat down and faced them with all earnestness, ready to lay it all out, sure that I knew which direction God was taking me. I had more questions and concerns than I could even put to words. She was clearly troubled. She and I weren’t even living in the same reality. Should I correct her for her railroading of my person? But we didn’t have a relationship! How could I confront with love when there’s no relationship? I was pretty wound up about the whole thing.
Imagine my astonishment when Martha said that this woman wasn’t even an issue. She said, “We need to find out what it is that YOU need here.” We got quiet and a few minutes later, the Holy Spirit gave Martha the answer. The key was in the post I’d just written on how forgiveness cuts the ties that bind us. I was in torment, feeling hunted and burdened by a little woman utterly incapable of hurting me in ANY WAY, and all because I was bound and needed to forgive an old hurt that she’d triggered.
I’m sharing this story because it perfectly illustrates how little I know about anything until God Himself weighs in, as well as the danger in pain unforgiven. Until we forgive, the pain moves through our lives, uncontained and uncontainable. It pops up in places we don’t expect and cripples us in ways we can’t foresee. It can even make us lose sleep over the terror of transportationally-challenged octogenarians half a world away who are desperate for love.