Because grace is brave and it always wins

You’re 16-years-old and the boy who kisses you beside the light blue Chevy Spectrum under the moon has berry-thick boy lips, his knuckles rough and cut from punching walls. He is all man, you think. And somewhat good. Becoming better. You hold hands and snuggle in the back of the church van on the way home from a praise and worship service on a Friday night in Oklahoma City. Before that, he tickled the inside of your arm outside under fireworks, side by side with friends around.

Why that boy likes you when he has dated the most beautiful, you don’t know. But you accept it, his face, his words a constant conversation in your mind through Algebra II, through American Lit.

How can four months be so long? So short?

It’s the night before New Year’s Eve when you call him and he’s distracted, girls laughing in the background of his house. Your friends, you realize. Your friends are at his house and he’s talking but not saying anything and you feel so confused until you realize he’s ending this. On the phone. He’s ending this. It’s dark in your room. You called him in bed and your phone is one of those 90′s beauties, clear with colored wires running through it, curly cord connecting the receiver to him, five miles away, where he laughs about you to your friends. And you stare at your phone as you close it, the phone, the line that held you to him.

Sixteen years old, and you lie in your bed in the dark begging God to love you because never have you felt so humiliated, so stupid for believing you were valuable. You weep in your pillow what feels like hours until you hear your brother come home, his door open across the hallway. Every thing in you begs to go to him. Tell him what’s broken. Hear him say that you matter. But the grief holds you bound. You can’t rise out of this bed. It’s yours for the night, girl.

So, like Jacob, you wrestle the angel who holds you there till morning. And the mark, the blessing, is the sound of God’s voice to your teenage ears. I love you I love you I love you. And this: Forgive him now because there’s more to this story. And in that night, you forgive. The wound is opened wide and into it God offers relief. “Listen,” God says. “You forgive from the softness of the wounded place. Forgive before it hardens.”

And so, five days later. When you force yourself to Sarah’s party where you know he’ll be, your eyes red from crying in the car in her driveway, he pulls you aside with Josie, one of your dearest of friends, to confess that they’ve been together behind your back. You suck in holy air. The sort of holy air that fills wide and hurts every inside part. The sort of holy air that wounds first so that you can forgive while tender.

Josie’s friendship goes the way of broken hearts though. She had loved you just as you loved her. Friday nights, the two of you had sung Wilson Phillips at the top of your lungs driving through Amarillo with nothing else to do but sing and talk and drink Sonic Oceanwater. And now she hates herself, you know, even as she dates him. Even as you watch them across the room in youth group and leave to sit in the bathroom, cry.

Forgiveness is a process and sometimes that process feels fully arrived at and sometimes five years later you stop and consider that night in your room, the Spirit beside you whispering love while the ache of rejection holds your body down. And you think, “How did Josie love me and still hurt me?” And you pray again to remember that confusion of being young and wanting to be loved. You pray again that you will forgive her.

So, when you open your Facebook 16 years later, the night after the funeral of a friend you all had loved as teenagers, a friend who had been at Sarah’s party that night, you’re shocked to find a message from Josie. A message asking for forgiveness. Life’s too short, she says. I always loved you, she says.

You’re at your parents’ house and it’s dark because your boys have gone to bed in the rooms that once belonged to your brother and you. Your parents are asleep. And you read her words that she loved you, that your friendship mattered to her, that all those nights laughing and shouting the harmonies to “Keep the Candle Burning” were not in your imagination. They were real and they mattered. And you’re crying in the living room, staring at your computer, your 16 year old self still aware of the ache of that loss. You go to the bathroom and stare at your 32 years face in the mirror, lines around the eyes, thinning cheeks. You cry and watch yourself and say, “God, what does this mean?”

What does it mean to forgive? You wonder, two hours later, 1 am, when your son cries out from a bad dream and you join him in bed in your former room, still decorated the same as it was 16 years ago, Josie’s face with a group of friends from high school framed in the corner. That night so long ago whispers to you while you tickle your son’s back. What does it mean to forgive?

The next night she picks you up from your parents’ house in her SUV at 9:30, after you’ve both put your respective kids to bed. And you drive to Starbucks. You tell her how you ended up in Syracuse, how you met Chris. You tell her about Young Life and writing and calling, about your kids.

She says, I’ve never regretted anything more in my life. And you believe her. And you listen to Wilson Phillips in the car and laugh about that boy and how he kissed. And grace wins.

Because grace is brave and it always wins.


Filed under Friends

18 Responses to Because grace is brave and it always wins

  1. This was an amazing and poignant story! I was there in the church bus with her holding hands with my current heart throb. Let it go? yes!

  2. wow. what an amazing story. so beautiful and touching.

  3. Wow. What an amazing piece of writing.

  4. Thanks for sharing this, Micah. We all know thos awful feelings of huminliation, hurt, betrayal. I’m actually writing a post about forgiveness in regards to my dad and my parents divorce. And I keep getting stuck on the very essence of the idea: “what is forgiveness?” Because I know it doesn’t mean you excuse someone’s behavior. It doesn’t mean you forget. And I don’t always think it means you “are over it.” So what does it mean? And so far the only thing I can think of, in a simplified explanation, is “I no longer hold this against you.”

    What are your thoughts?

  5. Wow. So powerful and touching. (And I drove around town belting out those same harmonies too - only I was driving around Midland instead of Amarillo!)

  6. Sam

    This is so - beautiful, amazing, GOOD. Oh, our tender teenage selves. You were wise even then, Micha. And what a good thing, for her to reach out after all these years (that feel so long and so short, too) and ask for forgiveness. Because sometimes those things that happened a long time ago can feel like they didn’t really happen, you know?

  7. Pingback: Monday Morning Musings | Old Testament 101

  8. Lyndsey

    Really good. I do not regret subscribing to your blog in the least.

  9. Words fail. This is a magical piece of writing. It had me from the first sentence. I have the same story, with the genders reversed. But wow! What a story.

  10. Oh. This: “Listen,” God says. “You forgive from the softness of the wounded place. Forgive before it hardens.”

    So, so good. Thank you.

  11. Jen

    One of the first things I read this morning, feeding my soul and contemplation. Thank you for sharing.

    But I want to ask, where were you at with what happened, the day before she had sent a message over Facebook? Had you forgiven and let go of, into the passage of time?

  12. Pingback: [shared reading] on forgiveness & grace | Y.Y. Jenny Lee

  13. Caroline

    This is so beautiful; a poignant re-telling of a story that so many of us, including me, have lived. I was 18, she was my best friend, he was my first boyfriend, and after another friend told me what was going on, they told me that neither of them wanted to have anything to do with me anymore. Years later, on a living room floor (rather drunkenly, on her part), she apologized over and over for what she had done. Yet it’s never a friendship we’ve regained. I tried, but her guilt seemed too heavy and she’s never really been able to be herself with me again.

    Yet I have found grace and forgiveness in that regardless. And in all the stories that sting of the same hurts as the years go on. If grace wasn’t able to unearthed somewhere in these moments and couldn’t empower us with its bravery and unconditional love, I’m not sure any of these stories could even be carried. Praise God that He made us so that we might never stop learning (and practicing) forgiveness.

  14. thankfully we were all 16 once. each. and of .us. The ones that couldnt eat and felt fat only weighing 97 lbs soaking wet. The ones that needed to be forgiven, and the ones that needed to forgive. Now the 30 somethings and 40somethings that need to stop. beating. those. 16 year old selves up. We are older and wiser. NOW. only because of time…. and grace.

  15. Oh, those hurts are hard. But forgiveness is healing and beautiful. Glad for both of you that grace is brave.

  16. Amy

    This story is beautifully and heartwrenchingly told. Thank you for sharing it.

  17. Oh, Micha….I didn’t see this one coming and WOW. Teary eyed here. Can your own story heal something in all of us that were ever betrayed? So lovely.

  18. Beautiful story. Makes me feel like calling a girlfriend from over 15 years ago and telling her I’m sorry. :(

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