Recently, I was listening to one of my favorite pastors on TV when he said something along these lines:
“If you’ve ever been spit on, you’ll never forget it.”
Immediately I said, “Lord, thank You that never happened to me; that must be awful. How humiliating. Lord, please help those people who have been spit on. And thank You that I’ve never been spit on!” About then my subconscious mind kicked in.
“You have been spit on.”
“No, I haven’t!” I said defiantly. “I wouldn’t forget that! Come on, brain, get with it!” I couldn’t believe my own mind was playing tricks on me like this. Little did I realize the One reminding me was the Holy Spirit.
“You have been.”
“I have not! Stop it!”
During a commercial break, several moments passed as I hurried to get chores done and back to my seat before the preaching began again. I loved listening to this guy! He spoke directly into my life almost every time I watched him.
And then without notice it all flooded back, and I just froze in place as my action-soaked memories surfaced.
Oh … yeah … I had been spit on … by … by my mother … I was 17 …. The reason? She hadn’t wanted a daughter. She hated females, each one in her family: her niece, sister, mother, sisters-in-law, mother-in-law … and her only daughter.
The movie in my mind continued unabated. In the small town where I went to school, one of the teachers had dated the guy who had become interested in me. She was 24, I was 17, and he was 21. Apparently in a fit of jealousy, she had called my mother and told her whatever she told her, and when I got home from school that day, there was nothing in my room except furniture and empty drawers. No sheets or blankets on the bed, nothing hung in the closet, and nothing remained on the walls. For the next two days I was forced to wear the same clothes I had worn that day, humiliated in front of teachers and classmates. I wondered if the long sleeve turtleneck and brown jumper stunk by the end of the week.
On the third day I begged my mom for an answer. I didn’t even know why she was so angry. Until that event, as a student I received A’s and B’s, loved school and my friends, played sports, didn’t drink or do drugs, and didn’t sleep around. I did everything I was told to do at home.
After some time, she determined to answer me, so sat down in a chair in the living room and called me to sit on the floor in front of her. She slammed cash onto the arm of the chair and slid it my way. Then she hissed, “I’ll buy you an airline ticket anywhere in the United States if you will leave and N-E-V-E-R come back!” And then in an increasingly hateful tone she continued, “And you can do anything you want and go anywhere; and I don’t CARE what happens to you! I NEVER want to see you again!”
I could not wrap my 17-year old brain around what was happening. I begged her not to send me away. Kneeling at the foot of her chair and crying, I pleaded with her again. I didn’t want to leave. I wasn’t prepared to go; I had not planned on it until after graduation still a year away. I begged her to tell me why.
“Why?” she repeated in a mocking voice. She paused as if she wanted it to really hurt when she answered. When my eyes met hers she continued, “Because … I … don’t … WANT you!” And then she spit on me.
For the first time in the four years of her daily emotional and physical abuse, I struck back. I slapped her as hard as I could … the way she had hit me for years … so hard that she was almost knocked out of the chair. Then silently I got up and went to my room.
As the memory rushed back I stood motionless in my kitchen … it was like watching a movie. How could I have forgotten that? It wasn’t a small event!
And then I remembered how I had forgotten. Twelve years after graduation, a dear Friend named Jesus Christ stood by me and wouldn’t give up until I succeeded in forgiving her. He worked and worked and worked with me until I could.
First, He made it clear He understood. He too had been spit on, and knew what it was to be hated simply because He was born. He knew what it was to be beaten for no reason, to be gossiped and lied about.
And clearly His efforts to help me forgive had worked, because as I remembered the event there was … no … bitterness or pain; just a sterile accounting of the facts. God had really done a work in me! He really had taken the awful things in my life, the ashes, and given me a beauty and peace I couldn’t explain any other way except to say it was Him. He did it!
Right where I stood at the counter I lifted my hands in praise and thanked God for His miracle-working-ability and willingness to endure until I forgave. It had not been easy but He had not let up until it was done.
My Dear Friend had endured with me when I wanted vengeance rather than forgiveness, when I blamed Him instead of her; and when all I could do was stare into space because of the pain. He is so faithful! God is so very, very faithful!
* * * * * * *
Then they spit in (Jesus’) face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him. Matthew 26:67 NIV
… to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 61:3 NIV