Jenny felt her face heat up until it was as red as her son’s toy fire engine. She wanted to smack her hand over her mouth, but the ugly words were out and she couldn’t take them back. Instead, she bent over her Bible and waited for the silence to end.
“Why don’t we move on to the next question,” the leader suggested.
Finally. Papers shuffled, pages turned and someone said something. Jenny couldn’t concentrate. She couldn’t believe she had said something so nasty about a friend. At least this was a small group and they had all agreed that anything said here was confidential. Right after the final prayer, she gathered her things and rushed out of the room. The sound of low voices followed her down the hall and she glanced over her shoulder at the open door.
They’re probably talking about me. “I hate gossip,” she muttered.
“Thumper says, ‘If you can’t say nuttin nice, don’t say nuttin at all.’”
Jenny jumped and looked down. Little Xander was standing in the door of the children’s room, holding a toy rabbit. Jenny put on a smile.
“That’s right, honey. Always say nice things.”
In the car, she pushed away her guilt and made a mental list of what she had to do before meeting the school bus at 3:00. The next morning, after hurrying the kids out to the bus stop, she took her time walking back to the house. She had a million things to do, but it was a beautiful day for a walk. When she got to her driveway, she kept going, breathing in the fresh air while she admired her neighbors’ landscaping. When her phone vibrated, she tugged it out of her pocket.
“Whatcha doing today?” Caitlin asked.
“You know. Clean the house, maybe make cookies. The usual stuff.” Caitlin didn’t really want to hear about her plans to organize closets. While she chattered about her own plans, Jenny waited for the question she knew had been burning in her mind since the Bible study yesterday.
“You know, Jenny, Beth was really hurt by what you said.”
“Beth knows? Who told her? Bible study is supposed to be confidential.” Jenny walked faster as her volume went up. “I hate gossip.”
“I don’t know who told her. I guess someone thought she ought to know.”
Jenny turned and headed back to her house. “Well, I guess that group’s not confidential after all. I won’t be saying anything important anymore. Listen, I’ve got a bunch of things to do today. I’ll talk to you later.”
She hung up and stuffed her phone into her pocket as she opened the front door. She stomped toward the kitchen, but saw her Bible on the table where she had left it yesterday. She paused and stared at it, still fuming about the supposedly confidential group. Suddenly she remembered a little voice saying “If you can’t say nuttin nice, don’t say nuttin at all.”
She picked up the Bible and sank into a chair. They had studied James last year and she knew exactly where to find the passage she needed. As she read chapter three, she prayed about her tongue. She acknowledged that it was out of control and asked God to forgive her. Then she put down the Bible and pulled out her phone.
Beth didn’t answer, so Jenny left a message. “Beth, I’m so sorry that I hurt you by what I said. Sometimes I just don’t think before I open my big mouth. Please forgive me.”
There. She had done what she could. She headed into the kitchen to clean up before the breakfast leftovers turned to stone. But she kept glancing at the phone on the counter, hoping Beth would call back. Nothing. Not in the afternoon, not by supper, nothing. After the kids were in bed, Jenny went on Facebook and sent Beth a personal message. An hour later she checked to see if it had been read. It had, but still no response.
By morning, she was pretty sure Beth wasn’t going to forgive her. Why had she been such an insensitive idiot? She thought about calling again, but she didn’t want to look like she was stalking her. She sat down in her favorite chair and prayed.
“Dear Lord, please, please, forgive me for the awful things I said. And please heal the hurt I caused Beth. Even if she doesn’t ever speak to me again, please help her forgive me. Don’t let her stay mad for her sake. Don’t let me be the reason for her to carry a grudge.”
Sunday morning, Jenny hurried the kids so she could get to church early enough to catch Beth before the service. Jesus had said to leave your gift at the altar if your brother had anything against you. Jenny wasn’t sure if she could worship with this rock in the pit of her stomach. She stood watching by the door until the kids finally dragged her to their Sunday School class. After handing them their Bibles and offerings, she walked toward the worship center with her head down, feeling the rock get bigger.
The sound of footsteps made her look up and there was Beth with a big smile. She threw her arms around Jenny and held on for a long time. Stepping back, she said, “Of course I forgive you. I know you didn’t mean it.”
Tears filled Jenny’s eyes as Beth tucked her arm into Jenny’s and walked into the worship center with her.
Today Mara gives her last apology. I don't think it's gotten easier and she's still not sure if she'll be forgiven. Read about it here.
If you've been reading the book, you'll want to vote for your favorite hero. Which one will capture Mara's heart in the last chapter?