Ephesians 4-17-24 17
Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. 19 They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 That is not the way you learned Christ! 21 For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
She told me how she hated her father for abandoning the family when she was a girl. All of her relationships with men had been poisoned by his leaving since. She told stories of date rapes and boyfriends in college betraying her with coffee shop poets who pine away to be the next Silvia Plath. She laid all of this misery on the lap of her father who left the family and married her best friend’s mother. Even that friendship had grown bitter as everyone chose sides. The heart hardens when we dwell in our stories. As I listen to her story at that cafe in Vail, I reviewed my own stories. Our impromptu date turned into something else.
I shared how I forgave my father who too abandon my family. By forgiving as God forgives, I found a peace. It is illuminating to see St Paul highlight both ignorance and the hardness of heart as two elements of living that must be over come to grow closer to God. As I prayed through this passage, the long ago conversation came back to me. I was single and had grown attracted to the young woman of woe. Though as we continued, I shared about my forgiving my father and reconnecting with him. I shared my faith with her. It was our last date, as she found no romantic sparks between us. Yet, she did seek me out three weeks later. She said she had called her father and forgave him. It was powerful to soften her heart.
A few years later I had left Vail for seminary. I had forgotten our conversation. I return to visit Vail and to my old friends at my old church, Eagle Vail Presbyterian Church. There to my surprise was the same woman. She had joined with her new husband. Forgiveness has a long reach and when we enter it with Jesus, a new life reforms out of our old stories. She had found God in her act of forgiveness. The lusts for revenge were replaced with a reconciliation to those who had hurt her.
She told me that I had made a big difference in her life in our conversation. I said no, it was Jesus who showed us both how to transcend our mutual pain and bring us both a new life. I shook hands with her husband. Love makes us new again.