89: The Teddy Bear

89: The Teddy Bear

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles

The Teddy Bear

Forgive, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.

~Author Unknown

Earl’s crossed arms and permanent grimace told everyone in the room he didn’t want to be there. Meanwhile, Kim wiped away tears as she expressed her desire for a happy marriage with a husband who managed his anger.

The couple was attending a Cleansing Stream seminar, led by Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California. Earl, sporting a two-day stubble on his chin, was a bear of a guy — an angry, burly man with an intimidating scowl. Kim, on the other hand, radiated warmth and faith.

During a portion of the seminar held at a hotel, Earl and Kim joined three other couples for informal counseling and prayer. I was part of the Cleansing Stream’s leadership team and I began with routine questions: “Where did you meet? How long have you been married? What do you do for a living?”

Earl grunted a few answers between complaints about this “inquisition,” but I could see right through his bravado. Something was bothering him.

Kim said that if Earl didn’t get help soon, the marriage would be over. Years of belligerence and shouting had taken their toll.

The session concluded with a time of prayer. With my eyes closed, I kept seeing a fuzzy brown teddy bear with a plaid bow around its neck. I wondered if I hadn’t gotten enough sleep the previous night. What did a teddy bear have to do with this guy and his deep-rooted anger?

As the meeting broke for lunch, a leader asked if Earl felt any differently. “I never believed in any of this prayer stuff anyway, so the answer is no,” he replied. “I only did this for my wife.”

I leaned over to my husband and said, “I know this sounds crazy, but the Lord wants me to buy Earl a teddy bear.”

My husband rolled his eyes, but after twenty-nine years of marriage, he had learned that my spiritual antennae usually picked up the right signals. “Okay, let’s go find one.”

At a nearby market, which happened to be having a sale on teddy bears, I found the exact bear I envisioned: a furry brown bear with a plaid bow around its neck. I purchased the bear and found a gift card too. I wrote a note explaining that God had told me to give Earl the bear, although I didn’t know why.

When the seminar regrouped in the hotel ballroom, I found Earl and Kim sitting toward the back. I walked over and handed Earl the brown paper bag holding the bear and card. When he lifted the bear out of the bag, Earl clutched it to his chest and his shoulders began heaving uncontrollably. Tears rolled down his cheeks. People couldn’t help looking his way.

After pulling him aside for a few minutes, the seminar leaders asked Earl to approach the podium in the front of the room. He did, clutching Kim and his teddy bear.

“I would like to thank the group for praying for me today,” he stammered. “Something happened here today, and it happened because a lady bought me this teddy bear. You see, no one in the whole world knows what this teddy bear means to me. When I was a little boy, I had a very cruel father who regularly beat me. One day I disobeyed him and, for my punishment, he took my favorite teddy bear to the back yard incinerator, where he burned it right before my eyes. I was so crushed, so hurt, that I never forgave him. I realize today that God knew my unforgiveness caused great anger in my marriage. Now that God gave me back my teddy bear, I can start healing.”

Dabbing at my tears, I sat in awe of God’s tender grace and unfailing love.

~Judith Ann Hayes

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