47. The Gift I Needed

47. The Gift I Needed

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

The Gift I Needed

Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.

~George MacDonald

I swallowed hard, willing away nausea. Did I misunderstand the words of this young man who now held my grocery bags hostage? Leaning forward, I listened for an explanation. He said it again. “Ma’am, there’s a problem with your check. I suggest you speak to a manager at the service counter.”

I had been shopping at this particular supermarket for more than five years and had never heard those words. My cheeks flushed with embarrassment as I imagined the eyes of the other customers watching me walk toward the manager.

Nervously, I bit my lip as he reviewed the register’s printout pertaining to the check. “You need to contact your bank,” he said, looking me in the eye. “There’s a problem.”

I hurried to the nearest exit and marched across the parking lot to where there happened to be a branch of my bank. After explaining the dilemma to the manager, she entered my account number and searched the computer file. Immediately, she spotted the problem. “Your account is overdrawn,” she calmly stated.

“How could that be?” I argued. “My paycheck was transmitted by direct deposit this morning. Surely there is money in this account. There must be a mistake.”

The branch manager searched further and identified the problem. “Take a look at this,” she said, turning her computer monitor toward me. “Your employer deposited the paycheck, but apparently someone withdrew all but twelve dollars.”

I worked hard to blink back tears. I knew who “the someone” was, and this time he had gone too far. How could he? My husband had taken my entire paycheck to support his drug habit.

I knew that I should have seen this coming. For the last few months, he had been abusing drugs and money had started to disappear. However, I never expected that he would go this far, would take the money that I needed to buy food for our children.

I rushed home, determined that he make it right. My husband needed to put the money back in the account. Secondly, he owed the children and me an apology. But I soon discovered that the money had already been spent and he felt no remorse for his actions.

Nothing was going to change, so I packed up our two young children and left our home behind. I was bitter for years after that. My joy was gone.

Ultimately, I sought the help of a therapist. I wanted to change and I was prepared to do just about anything to feel better. Dr. Wade looked at me and said, “You will never get beyond this unless you forgive your husband.”

They must have heard me in the reception area when I shouted, “That’s not possible!”

Dr. Wade, who apparently was accustomed to this type of response, sat still and waited for me to calm down.

I didn’t. “Because of him, we lost our home, furnishings, bank accounts, and cars. I can barely face the children or myself. He’s destroyed us.”

I continued ranting; and when I was finally exhausted from shouting and crying, Dr. Wade spoke: “There is a gift you need.”

I took a tissue from the box next to the sofa and dabbed my eyes as I absorbed what she had said. “The gift you need is not something that anyone can give you. It is a gift you must give yourself. It is the gift of forgiveness. The forgiveness of your husband’s actions,” Dr. Wade paused, “and forgiveness of yourself.”

I buried my face in my hands—too absorbed in my own anger and grief. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months before I began to comprehend. Almost a year to the day of that session, I awoke one morning from a dream. In the dream, a large package was before me. It was wrapped in the most unique paper I had ever seen—like that of a rainbow. I marveled at its brightness and was grateful that it was mine. I began to untie the white satin bow around the box. I loved its feel against my fingers. This had to be a really good gift, I thought.

But when I pulled the top off the box, the phone rang, awakening me. As much as I wanted to see what was in that box, I couldn’t. The dream was gone. I never saw the gift inside.

Rattled from the experience, I thought through all the unnecessary bitterness that I had harbored over the years. My children deserved better, and today was the day I would begin to offer it to them. Still in my pajamas, I reached for my journal and wrote. I didn’t stop until five pages later, where I laid out my complete forgiveness to my husband. And when I saw him again a month later the words, “I forgive you,” came right after my greeting. He followed up with a smile and shared his surprise that I had come to this point. Of course, he too profusely apologized for his actions—something he’d done many times before. We never got back together but for both of us this was a turning point.

But there was one more thing needed in my life. The gift remained incomplete. I needed to forgive myself. I had wasted so much time being angry. When I accepted what awaited me in that gift box, I realized that nothing is more liberating than when one decides to forgive. Had I understood this all-important gift, I would have acted sooner. From that day forward, I committed to never hold myself hostage in this way again. By God’s grace, I have stuck to that promise.

Forgiveness. What a wonderful gift!

~Yvonne Curry Smallwood

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