Thursday, May 7, 2009

She said…what?

“She said you took her paintings for your kids. I thought you should know how she feels because I bet I’m not the only one she’s telling.”

This call caught me totally by surprise and pierced my heart. The quote was from an elderly woman I’d considered a good friend. She was a Christian role model whose amazing life I tried to copy. Now she’s failing physically and mentally, but this report -- even in the context of encroaching dementia -- cut me to the quick. Where in my head and heart could I file these disturbing words? This woman, now bad-mouthing me, had regularly prayed for and encouraged me.

What happened? After she moved to the retirement center, I stopped by her home to dig up a rose bush she told me to take. Her son was there packing up the last of her stuff that no one wanted. She was a painter and, after family members selected all their favorite pieces, he saw no option but to haul the unwanted paintings off to the dump. It was terrifying to think of her work destroyed. Surely, there was some place for her finished artwork.

I rescued a dozen paintings and stored them in my husband’s office attic. I planned to someday give them to her grandchildren, the school auction committee, a library -- any place but the trash heap for her handiwork.

I had an equally hard time dumping what she said about me. I asked God to help me forgive the words that she wouldn’t have meant and never would have said before her illness. I remembered St. Paul’s words to the Galatians: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23a). Through these words, He settled my soul so that I could let go. Thank God that through Christ we are forgiven and can forgive! Our intentions are sometimes misinterpreted where feelings get hurt, and rifts are created, but Jesus reconciled us to one another.

Finally, I hauled the paintings to her nursing home and put them under her bed. As I left her room, I thanked God for His Words. Stored in my heart and mind, they reminded me to care more about what He thinks and knows about me than what others do.

No comments: