I am constantly learning, ‘forgiveness is a concept, not a one-time event’. I got a lot of chances to choose forgiveness with my mom. Scattered amongst the good times are many oil and water moments. My mom died unexpectedly in 2011 at 65. She suffered with depression and bi-polar disorder. My sensitive nature, caused me to suffer with certain aspects of her struggle. Mom was raised by an alcoholic, abusive father. He used to say “girls can’t work so they have no value” and “girls are a waste of food”. My mom suffered severe, emotional damage as a result. This broken, emotionally unstable woman tried her best to be a good mom. She tried to protect me from her deep wounding. She wasn’t always successful, but she left a great legacy. She instilled in me a great work ethic. Her kitchen produced love and the best food known to man. She taught me that even the most broken have great capacity to love limitlessly. My mom did the best she could with what she had.
For years, my best friends were women, but the fear they’d try to control me, like mom, kept me distant. If I felt threatened, I would walk away from the friendship. This emotional disconnectedness from women was one factor that lead to the development of my same sex attractions. I have processed much of the wounding from my mother, but it left me with a great fear and mistrust of women. A few days ago, God exposed some residual wounding and did a great work in me using a strong willed, neighbor lady.
Our encounter was set against the backdrop of my garage sale. I was deep in the throws of HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) when she showed up and introduced herself by letting her dog pee on one of my planters. The interaction, initially non-descript, evolved into her telling a story about a couch someone had dropped off in the middle of the street. She told me it was in great shape and I could sell it. I agreed to go have a look.
The couch was a Paula Deen shade of blue. Closer inspection revealed a story of Crime Stopper proportions. The sides were ripped, the pillows were missing and it housed more cigarette butts than a slot machine ashtray on an over seventies, gambling cruise. A colony of ants were excitedly gathering crumbs and discarded French fries. Plywood had been added for extra support. The best part was the discovery of 50 cents and a baggie containing two mysterious white pills. All this couch was missing was a dead celebrity. Surprisingly, I decided to pass on the couch. The neighbor lady was visibly stunned. She tried to convince me that the couch could be cleaned. Ultimately, I realized she wasn’t concerned with my garage sale; she wanted to dispose of Ozzy Ozbourne’s Sofa.
On our drive home, she told me that she had turned pictures of my un-edged sidewalks into the Homeowner’s Association. My distaste for this woman’s was escalating by the second. I listened in disbelief. Not only had she tried to use me to move discount furniture, now she was criticizing me personally. The fact that she was a woman exacerbated the situation. She was pushing my ‘controlling women, mom buttons’. After two days of a garage sale euphoria, this woman had singlehandedly ruined my day.
I began to process the interaction with my friend Cindy Coffman. I was legitimately angry with this woman. I wanted to egg her house and torch her lawn. God calmed me down through Cindy’s counsel. I wanted a one-day pass to be ugly to this woman; get revenge and ask for forgiveness the next day. I’m just being honest. Maybe you are a better Christian than me, but I‘m ‘honestly open’ rather than ‘superficially chaste’. I don’t claim to be perfect. I proclaim that Jesus’ love and peace help keep my brokenness from running amuck. I was reminded of Romans 12:20 “Therefore, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ ”
It wasn’t revenge I needed, it was compassion and forgiveness. I needed to minister to this woman somehow. I drove to her house armed with two Chick-fil-A gift cards and an open heart. When I arrived she was doing yard work at a neighbor’s house. I had no idea what God expected me to do, but He simply impressed on my heart to help her. “Excuse me?” This was supposed to be stop and go mission. Reluctantly, I parked and began to help. She was thankful. At some point she remembered that I run a ministry and referred to me as a ‘minister’. She also said something that quelled my anger and touched something deep inside. “I think God sent you here today to help me.” I almost swallowed my tongue, but it appears that Crow was suddenly on the menu.
The neighbor whose yard we were cleaning brought us bottled water. She told us that she was a minister too and had suffered a nervous breakdown. Immediately, God told me to pray for her. It was a simple prayer, but they both thought it was a beautiful.
I eventually confessed my anger to my neighbor. She was quick to let me know I had misunderstood her. She hadn’t reported me to the HOA. She had reported the lawn mowing crew. Gulp! I had allowed my brokenness to reinterpret her story. I would have never known that, if I had chosen anger over forgiveness.
Because of my wounds, I got triggered. I almost trashed my witness for Jesus Christ and missed an opportunity to pray and share my testimony of walking away from homosexuality with Jesus as my guide. I felt like the Holy Spirit showed me that my wounds let me see only a narrow view of the world around me. If you would trust God, He would show me the big picture through the veil of redemption for All: the good, the bad, the mean, the hurting, the overachiever, the gossip, etc..
While we were standing there on the lawn, a garbage truck with a specialized arm came by and grabbed “Amy WineCouch” and lifted her effortlessly into the truck. Barb, the neighbor lady, joked that old couch was the reason we had all met in the first place. Interesting how God uses the seemingly inconsequential things of this world to affect change in lives. I was reminded of 1 Corinthians 1:27 “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” God used an old, rugged couch to humble and remind me of the work Jesus did for each of us on an old, rugged cross.