Today, for the second time in two months, I preached at the morning worship service of a small rural church twenty-five miles from Truckee. A total of ten people were in attendance. Following the service that consisted of two worship songs, the sermon, and a closing song, the congregation retired to the fellowship hall for coffee and cookies.
During the fellowship time, a woman, who was in attendance for the first time in several years, approached me, thanking me for my message and then told me that the Holy Spirit was prompting her (pricking her heart were the words that she used) to share something with me. She then went on to say that in 2008 her and her husband to be, met me at a dinner party at the home of a mutual friend. Over the course of the evening, during a conversation with that man who is now her husband, he was offended by something that I said in our conversation and had been nursing a root of bitterness against me ever since. She then told me that she lived four miles from the church and invited me to come to her home and talk to her husband.
While she was speaking, the Holy Spirit pricked my heart, with the words of Jesus from Matthew 5:23, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” And since forgiveness and reconciliation are themes in my book The One Another Project, I knew that I must heed the Spirit’s leading.
Following that conversation, my wife, Sandy, and I drove the four miles to the woman’s home to talk with her husband. After some light conversation around the kitchen table, the offended individual shared with me the thing that I said that had stuck in his heart like a thorn for the past thirteen years. I listened carefully as he recounted his recollection of our conversation that night.
It seems that he had recently gone through a divorce, so had the woman that accompanied him that night, the very one who shared this story with me this morning. He had asked me if I would marry them to which I replied that I would not without a time of pre-marital counseling. He understood my response to mean that I would not marry them and believed that they should not be married.
I then explained to him that I require pre-marital counseling for every couple that I am asked to marry. Especially, if the two have previously been married, so that we have a chance to explore the possibilities of someone bringing into a new marriage wounds that were incurred in the previous one.
Following that conversation, I confessed to him that I was so very sorry that my words had hurt him. I then asked for his forgiveness, he quickly accepted my apology and then said that he forgave me. In that moment, this man who had nursed a wound in his heart for the past thirteen years, was set free. My heart also soared as God had just miraculously honored my responding to the Spirit’s prompting through the words of Jesus. It was indeed a glorious moment of celebration for both of us, which ended in prayer and warm embraces.
The title of chapter two in The One Another Project is Forgive One Another. The last lines of that chapter are, “When I forgive a captive is set free, the surprising thing is that the captive is me.” But this man would not have been set free today, if I had not obeyed the words of Jesus and moved in his direction, seeking reconciliation.
I witnessed a miracle today!