LENT: A TIME FOR FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILIATION
By Jennifer Jordan
Lent is a time for forgiveness and reconciliation. An acquaintance of mine recently shared an experience that shows the beauty reconciliation can bring. Mrs. Winston's story begins with an automobile accident that nearly claimed the life of her 35-year-old son, Robert.
After seven weeks of daily visits to the hospital and many "life and death" complications, it looked as if Robert was going to survive. Despite the hardship, Mrs. Winston, a gentle, spiritual woman, was quick to be positive about her situation. She believed in the power of prayer and was confident God was healing her son. "The doctors, the nurses--they were the Lord's instruments, and they were good instruments," she said. "The people at the hospital were all as nice as they could be," she said. Then with hesitation, she added, "except for a problem I had with one nurse." She continued to explain the incident. Robert had been in the hospital a long time, and his mother was hoping he could leave to attend their family reunion. "Well, I asked this nurse about it, and she just blew up at me," she said. "The nurse called my request 'unreasonable,' and said there was 'no way' the doctors would approve it." Mrs. Winston, a soft-spoken woman in her 60s, was shocked and hurt by the woman's cold response. "I couldn't understand why she was so nasty," she said. Another nurse who witnessed the encounter added, "Ignore her, she's just temperamental."
When Mrs. Winston went home, she couldn't forget the incident. She returned to the hospital the next day and the same nurse was in her son's room. She called her aside and said to her, "I think a great deal of you and the other nurses here." She then went a step further. "I don't think I have ever done anything to hurt you or offend you. But, if I have, I apologize." She continued to tell the nurse that she didn't understand what provoked her angry tone. "I hugged her and told her how much we appreciated her work with Robert." "Well, she just melted," Mrs. Winston said in her soft southern voice. "It seems she was going through some hard times, and it hadn't been a good day." As I listened to her story, I thought about how others might respond to the rude nurse. Some might report the incident to the woman's supervisor; some might reply in the same tone the nurse used; and, some might vindictively walk away and wish the woman a flat tire on her way home. Then, there are rare souls--such as Mrs. Winston--people who inspire us to reach for the Christ within us and to treat others with love and compassion. I reflected on her wonderful example. She put aside her anger and pride and offered forgiveness. Christ invites each of us to reconcile with those who hurt or disappoint us. It is a call to forgive the stranger who cuts you off in traffic; the family member who has been a bit "too honest"; and, the ex-spouse who may continue to drive you crazy.
After Mrs. Winston left my home I wondered why this acquaintance had shared such a personal story. She had come to my home on business --to repair my washing machine. Then, as I reflected on it, I knew why our paths had crossed. She was bringing a wonderful example of how to deal with hurt in our lives. This Lent, take the big step. Surrender any "eye for an eye" notions and pray for help in learning to love and forgive the way our Lord taught us.
Q: Is the custom of giving up something for Lent mandatory?
A: No. However, it is a salutary custom, and parents or caretakers may choose to require it of their children to encourage their spiritual training, which is their prime responsibility in the raising of their children.
Wear a cross or other religious article; you will be surprised how many times this will start a conversation about your faith.