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Fighting Forgiveness

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We’ll have a blast when we get to the cabin!” I shrieked. “We’ll boat every day. We’ll play water volleyball with the neighbors. I’ll even teach you to ski!”
“Sounds awesome!” Jen said.

Ever since I was 8 years old I’d spent summer vacations at my parents’ lake cabin in Michigan. But this was the first time Mom and Dad had let me invite a friend along.

 When we arrived at the cabin, we built a bonfire and roasted hot dogs and toasted marshmallows. Dad even broke out his guitar and strummed some tunes.

The next day we packed the cooler with cold drinks, sub sandwiches, and chips to take an all-day boat trip into the Great Lakes.

“You’re gonna love it!” I told Jen as I hauled the food down to the lake. “We’ll take a slow boat ride through the river. Then we’ll eat a picnic lunch beneath the Mackinac Bridge!”

Great temps, sunny skies, tasty food—I couldn’t have asked for a better day on the water with my best friend.

When we got back to the cabin, Jen said she was going to take a shower. “Can you take my bag to your room?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said, picking up her bag. As I carried it toward my room, I noticed a piece of paper fall to the floor. I picked it up to stuff it back inside her bag, but my eyes saw my name in the middle of the page, compelling me to read it.

“Dear Michelle, I wish this vacation was over! I can’t believe how lame it is here! There’s nothing to do but hang out on the boat, and that gets old after a while. Today Christy’s parents acted as if they were doing us some big favor by packing up some potato chips to take out on the boat. Big whoop. Food tastes the same whether you eat it on land or on water! Duh . . .”

A tight knot formed in the pit of my stomach as my eyes scanned word after word of betrayal.

“ . . . Christy made this place sound like some awesome retreat, but it’s just a dinky cabin in the woods. You know what they do for entertainment around here? Sit by the campfire and listen to her dad play the guitar. Kill me now!”

My hands began shaking as tears filled my eyes. I couldn’t believe my best friend would write such hurtful things about my family and me. I continued reading: “Oh, Chelle, what I wouldn’t give to be hanging with you tonight instead of being stuck here with a bunch of losers, listening to the frogs croak and the crickets chirp. I’m so bored! I hope I survive the next four days. Promise me when I get home we’ll have some real fun. Believe me, I’m gonna need it! Love, Jen.”

I dropped down to my knees, clutching the letter in my trembling hands.
How can Jen be so sweet to my face and write such horrible things behind my back? I wondered, confused and dismayed.

Just then Jen came out of the bathroom and found me on the floor.

“Wh-what’s wrong?” Jen asked. She rushed over and put her arm around me. “Are you OK?”

“Don’t act like you care about me!” I snapped as I pushed her away. “I know how you really feel!”

“What are you talking about?” Jen asked.

I held up the letter, now wet from my tears. She grabbed the paper from my hands.

“What are you doing with that?” Jen yelled. “Did you read it?”

“Yes. It fell out of your bag. I know it’s none of my business, but I’m glad I read it,” I said with a hiss. “Now I know what our friendship means to you.”

I stomped out of the cabin.

“Christy, wait!” Jen called out. But I didn’t want to hear what she had to say. In fact, I never wanted to hear her backstabbing voice again.

Not surprisingly, the rest of that vacation was agonizingly awkward. I pretty much ignored Jen until she flew home four days later.

Finding it hard to forgive

For the next two months I got weekly apology letters from Jen, which I assumed she wrote only to ease her guilt. I wasn’t about to forgive her; I wanted her to feel as awful as I did. Mom kept reminding me of how God would want me to handle this situation, but I wasn’t ready to forgive—maybe I never would be.

Jen and I didn’t talk the entire summer. Then on the first day of school she cornered me.

“Christy, I get that you’re ticked at me, and you have every right to be,” Jen said. “But you need to know that what I said in Michelle’s letter wasn’t true. I did have fun in Michigan. Before I left on that trip, Michelle made me feel so guilty about abandoning her to go on vacation with you. So I thought if I wrote her a letter telling her what a horrible time I was having, she’d feel better.”

“What about how I feel?” I asked. “My family included you in our vacation, and you called us a bunch of losers!”

“I know,” Jen said, “and I’m sorry. But I’ve apologized in every way I know how, and you won’t forgive me.”

And why should I? I thought.

Although I knew God wanted me to be gracious, the idea of forgiving Jen for trashing my family and me seemed impossible. The words in that letter were seared into my brain. And every time I thought of them, my heart pounded with anger. I honestly didn’t know if I wanted to be friends with someone who had hurt me so badly.

Then, through divine intervention, a few weeks later Jen and I got paired together for an English project. At first I was livid, but as I slowly started to let down my guard, I realized that I missed our friendship. Over the course of that school project, I decided to forgive Jen. I think the reason I had resisted forgiving her for so long was that I thought that doing so would make me feel like a loser who had just sort of given in. But it felt really good to let go of that bitterness and anger.

Although it took some time for me to fully trust Jen again, eventually our friendship was just as close as it once was. I even invited her back to the cabin two years later, and we had that blast of a vacation we didn’t have the first time around.

Jen and Christy continued to build their friendship throughout high school, college, and beyond. They acted as maid of honor in each other’s weddings, and Christy recently asked Jen to become godmother to her newborn baby boy.

Christy Heitger-Ewing writes from Indiana.

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way to go Christy!!
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