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As We Forgive Those
"I cannot believe she is here!" I complained to my roommate, Amy. I had decided to go on the retreat to get away from the stress in my life, and was ecstatic when I discovered that Amy and my boyfriend, Mike, were also going. My excitement turned to dismay when I discovered that the girl who was constantly trying to break up my relationship was also going on the retreat. "Just look at her! We haven't even left yet and she's already all over him! Maybe this retreat wasn't such a good idea after all," I whined.
Amy and I watched as Mike untangled himself from the girl and headed our way. "It's a test, Mol," Amy began. "It's a test from God. Are you up to it?"
"Hope so," I replied, as we piled into the car.
Once we arrived at the lodge, our team leaders did some icebreakers to help us get to know each other. The first icebreaker paired two people together. Guess who got paired together? Mike and the girl. I glared as she snuggled up to Mike and asked him to tell her about himself. I looked over at Amy, who was looking at me and mouthing the words, "Test from God."
It was time for a break, so I headed to the bathroom. I heard someone come in, then a voice said, "Well she's his girlfriend, but don't worry, because by the end of the retreat . . ." I stepped out of the stall, and the girl stopped speaking. Giving her a fierce glare, I stormed out of the restroom in search of Amy. When I told her what had happened, she replied just as she had earlier, "It's a test, Mol. What kind of person are you going to be?"
I didn't get the chance to respond because we were being corralled into small groups for discussion. Sure enough, when I arrived atthe place where my group was to meet, she was the first person I saw. I could not believe my luck. I kept trying to think of what horrible thing I had done to make God punish me like this. Mike and I were finally together after a year and a half of struggling over whether or not to take our very close friendship to the next level. I didn't want to go through all of that again. I decided that later that night I would talk to him about the girl. He wasn't showing any interest in her, but the fact that she was wherever he was grew increasingly frustrating.
My thoughts were interrupted because small group discussion began. The topic was faith and spirituality, and everyone was sharing a little about his or her faith. When it was her turn, I listened to her talk about how she had lost members of her family this year and was very frustrated with God. "I don't really have any spirituality," she said, while staring at the floor.
During reflection time, her comment about not really having any spirituality was all I could think about. Did she really mean that? I watched her sitting quietly across the room, and knew she needed someone to talk to. Thoughts of "What Would Jesus Do?" wandered through my mind. Even though I had some extremely hostile feelings toward this girl, I knew someone needed to reach out to her. I took a scrap of notebook paper and scribbled the following note: "I'm glad you're here this weekend! If you need someone to talk to, I'm willing to listen. Have a good weekend! God bless, Molly."
The next morning at breakfast the girl approached me. It wasn't until she got close that I realized she had tears in her eyes. "Thank you so much for your note," she told me. "You are the sweetest person!" She threw her arms around me and sobbed. I hugged her back for a very long time. When I looked up, Amy was smiling at me from across the room.
That night, Mike and I went for a walk to talk about the situation. I explained to him what she said in the small group, and told him about the note I had written to her. I wanted to be able to help this girl, but I didn't know if I could do it. I didn't even know if she wanted help. After a while, we stopped and silently watched delicate snowflakes cover the ground in the season's first snow.
Mike made me feel better. "First of all, realize that nothing she can do will ever pull us apart. We've been through too much to let that happen," he said. "And as for helping her, you can do it, Molly. You can do it if you try. Just give it a chance. Sometimes you just have to let go and let God take care of it."
I went to bed thinking about those words and woke up with a different attitude. From then on, Tracy and I became closer. We shared our heartbreaks and our happiness, and learned a lot about each other. At times, she reminded me a little bit of myself. As we prepared to leave the retreat, everyone was trying to get the chance to say one last goodbye to the people they had shared so much with. When she and I found each other, we burst into tears and embraced. We stood there hugging each other as the group began to say the "Our Father." When they got to the part where it says, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," I realized I had figured out what it was all about.
Amy had been right. The retreat was a test from God. Before the retreat, I had been trying to deal with so many thingsùmy mother had been seriously ill for months, I had two thesis papers due within the next two weeks, and I had gotten so run down from trying to deal with it all that I had very little self-esteem left. I felt like I was at the end of my rope. During that "Our Father," I realized that God had given me an opportunity to show to myself what kind of person I was. I realized what it meant to be a child of God. Suddenly, all of the things I was so worried about before the retreat didn't seem so important anymore. I didn't have to do it all alone. I had God on my side.
Mike had been watching from across the room. I dried my eyes and walked to his open arms. "I love you," I said, smiling up at him.
He kissed me on the forehead and hugged me tight. "I just watched you grow," he said. I hugged him back. I had watched me grow, too.
Molly A. Burrows
¬2003. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Chicken Soup for the Christian Teenage Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Kimberly Kirberger, Patty Aubery, Nancy Mitchell-Autio. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
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