Being chauffeured around town in a stylish limousine, was always a dream of mine. There was something so glamorous about the idea. I could envision myself all dolled-up, elegantly stretched out across the smooth leather with a bright, glossy smile on my face. There would be laughter and friendship, romance and prestige. A night that was light, airy, fun and at-ease.
Yet, there was nothing glamorous about this limo ride. There was no laughter, only tears. There wasn’t any romance, only fear. There was nothing prestigious about this affair, only humility and despair. The short ride from the funeral home to the graveyard was nothing like the endless, starry-eyed night I had imagined. It wasn’t quite the occasion for which I’d been saving my ‘little black dress.’ Surrounded by family members who were each experiencing their own stages of heartache, I witnessed sorrow, anger, and disbelief. The darkness was thick and it was heavy with grief.
Growing up, my sister, Kalisha, and I would pretend we were famous singers. We’d put on our oldest sister’s hand-me-down prom gowns and strut around the house with microphones imagined out of serving spoons and empty paper towel rolls. Born exactly a year and half apart, she was my best friend. The ‘kiki to my tam tam’—the nicknames that were yelled out across the yard as we were summoned in from hours of wonder-filled play, for evenings of dinner and chores. We shared a room where we would spend many late nights pouring out our dreams and our fears, holding each other during one of mom and dad’s bad fights, and reassuring each other everything would always be alright. Every memory of my childhood is reflected with her right by my side.
The hurt began as we grew older. The petty fights over boys and clothes that grew into deeply wounding words and vicious acts. The bitter root that grew in my heart over these matters had made itself at home; so much dirt shoveled over it’s crooked, clenching arms that the thought of it ever being uprooted was inconceivable. She would have to come to me. She would have to take the first step. My forgiveness wasn’t free. It would come at the cost of a repentant heart and a genuinely sincere apology.
I sat in church one cool, spring night sunk low in my chair, heart swollen with sadness over the state of my childhood best friend. She was struggling through this life; allowing the weight of a fallen world to sweep her up with its temporary, tasty, poisonous lies. I wanted her to remember the freedom in Christ she had found the day I held her hand and walked her to the alter. The day she said, ‘yes’ to Jesus ruling her heart and her life. The pain of our family’s past was beginning to steal the best of her and sell it for cheap thrills. I couldn’t stand idly by, but what could I do? She hadn’t made her peace with me. Offering my hand of help, would be offering forgiveness for free and love without condition.
That night, the pastor preached on the book of Philemon. Just 1 chapter and 23 verses long, yet deep enough to widen the built up walls in my heart letting love and forgiveness flow free. Philemon tells the story of a runaway slave who stole from his master; and the plea for the master to not only bring the slave home, but offer unconditional forgiveness and begin treating him as a brother. This type of forgiveness, where it is not just words spoken or a decision of the mind, but a welcoming home, arms stretched wide, slate made clean, be my flesh and my blood type of forgiveness, can only be possible through Jesus. The type of forgiveness where you lay down your life and your rights for a friend, like our Father laid down His life and His rights for us. Jesus whispered to my heart that night and reminded me that I could not just receive His forgiveness without cost, but I had to give of it too. For whatever debt of remorse Kalisha owed me, He had already paid the price. It was His forgiveness flowing through me that allowed me to call her and say, “I’m sorry, come home, be my sister again.” We rekindled our friendship, our sisterhood that night. We didn’t name each wrongdoing and reconcile them one by one. We just settled on ‘it’s over’, and I am ready to move on. I am only thankful, it was just in time…
One month later, I sat hunched over on that smooth leather seat, preparing to throw one last shovel full of dirt; but this time it was over her grave. Preparing to live life without my sister, just 21-years-old, preparing to be without my best friend. Had I allowed my stubbornness to stop me from forgiving her and asking her forgiveness, that limo ride would have haunted me for the rest of my days. Instead, it reminds me of the journey God took me on prompting me to live each day with a heart ready and willing to forgive. It reminds me of God’s sovereignty, His still present voice, and the transforming power of His Word. It is evidence that life is so short it deserves our attention and our urgent response to unreconciled relationships. It was a hard and painful ride, one that left many jagged stains on the surface of my heart. Yet, in hindsight, the hard heart lessons learned on that road to restoration, made this ride greater than the one I had always wanted; because it gave me the gift of what God knew I most desperately needed. A chance to reflect back on the last days of her life, and know that we were more than sisters, we were and always would be the very best of friends.
(In honor of my sister, Kalisha, 7/12/2004. xo forever)
Worship: The song that played the night Kiki accepted Jesus into her heart. Run to you- Angelo & Veronica
Gratitude: Give thanks— “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Grow: “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for ever, no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.” Philemon 1:15-16a. Who in your life do you need to reconcile with? Will you trust God enough to protect you and sustain you so you can offer this type of slate made clean, arms stretched wide, be my flesh and my blood type of forgiveness, as he did for you?
Give: “Welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.” Philemon 1:17b-18. We have the opportunity to love unconditionally and show Jesus-like forgiveness in nearly every moment of our days. How will you shower those you come in contact with, whether family, friend, coworker or stranger, with this type of gracious living?
Each LSLW post includes three areas of reflection in hopes to offer a chance for us to give thanks, grow in our personal faith and find ways to pour out from our lives what Christ has poured into us.
© Tamara Gurley 2014