My mother always loved to sit and chat over a good cup of coffee. I remember as a child growing up when we would visit our relatives. My siblings and I would quickly find our cousins and we would proceed to pursue our own adventures. But even as I played “dress up” with my girl cousins in the next room, I was always intrigued by the grown-up conversations around the table with my mother and her sisters. I often wondered what in the world adults could possibly talk about for so long. Even more, why would anyone want to do that when you could be playing!
Looking back now I fully understand the reason for those long visits and all the chatter among all those grown women. Once I became a mother, I cherished conversations with my sisters and other women who were always ready to give some good counsel for whatever problem I seemed to be facing in the years of being a young wife and mother. One of these women was, of course, my own mother.
She always seemed to have the answer no matter what burdens I would unload at her table over coffee. Yes, indeed my mother was a wise woman with a solution for just about anything. That wisdom came from years of listening to those older and wiser than herself and then applying it to her own problems.
One particular piece of advice which she gave me, has always stood out in my mind. It had to do with being quick to let go of offense when a person did something to hurt me. She would say to me:
“Rosie, be like a duck when people hurt you. Let those words be like water on a duck’s back and let them roll off. Make up your mind that you are not going to let them stick to you. Then just flap your arms like little wings and say ‘quack-quack!’”
I used to get such a chuckle at her words but the more I practiced being like a duck when I really wanted to lash out at someone, I found that she was right. Eventually, over time, I would find out just how important her advice was.
Now fast forward to my mid 40’s in age as a fairly new Christian. I attended a Christian Women’s conference with four women from the church we were all attending at the time. I had never been to a large women’s gathering like that ever. The conference had four different sessions scheduled from a Thursday evening to a Saturday morning. The entire conference was wonderful but truthfully speaking, I still only remember one session like it happened yesterday. It was the one that most impacted me and changed my life. The older but well-known speaker delivered a message on offense and unforgiveness which I literally wept through.
You see over the course of about two decades prior to that conference, there were a number of people who had hurt me through many unkind words and actions. I was living under a great cloud of offense. I was in a prison of unforgiveness. Somehow the “quack like a duck” advice became buried under a pile of bricks that I had used to build a wall with around my heart. As I listened to this older woman speak from her own experience as well as on God’s word on the need to forgive people who hurt us, I saw one face after another come to my mind of individuals I knew I was going to have to forgive. And the tears kept pouring.
God knew this moment was coming. He had already put a beautiful mentor in my life. She too was an older woman and her name was Jo. As soon as I got home from the conference I called Jo in tears and shared what I had learned about forgiving people. She had me come to her home that day. We spent several hours together as I poured out my heart to her disclosing years of hidden pain. She listened patiently. When she finally spoke, this was her advice. She said:
“Rosie, you need to get alone with Jesus. Just you and him. Have a pen and paper with you and just sit and listen. He is going to have you write some things down. You will know when your list is complete. It is time to forgive and let it go. All the offense has to go so you can begin to heal from the pain.”
Next, she prayed for me as I sobbed through the relief of knowing that God was about to do something big in my life.
The next day I did just as Jo had instructed. I took my daughter to school and came right back home. I went to my little ‘Jesus corner’ where I always met with him. I sat and listened. And then I begin to write…and write..and write. Every offense I could possibly think of was spilling out on paper along with a river of tears. Five hours later, I knew I was finished writing. I took a red marker and in huge letters across the paper, I wrote these words:
“NOW COVERED BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS!”
I tore the sheets of paper into the tiniest pieces I could and tossed them into the trash can.
There is so much more I could say about the details that followed this life-changing moment in my life and I do discuss this in depth in my book, ‘Nuggets from the Heart.’
The important thing is that, yes, I did let the offenses go. No, it was not easy. No, the pain did not instantly disappear. But what I did have was a new found peace that eventually erased the pain from years of living with those offenses. In a recent blog, I have shared a bit of my testimony of forgiveness and why it was so necessary for me to do that.
A loving mother. A Christian speaker. A godly mentor.
None of these women ever met one another. But yet God had a plan for each one to speak into my life with wise counsel through godly advice. Learning to let go of offense and extending forgiveness has been the most valuable lesson I learned because it set me free to love people that I found very hard to like.
Even today when an offense comes knocking, I remember the wise words of these beautiful women. Then I visualize that little duck and the warmth of my mother’s loving and knowing smile envelops my heart. Once again I see myself sitting at her kitchen table, enjoying our coffee, and laughing hysterically as we flap our wings and quack!
That precious memory serves as a reminder that by God’s grace, I can still let hurting words roll off my back like water once more.
Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days. Proverbs 19:20 NKJV