On a warm afternoon last week, I took advantage of the bright summer sunshine to dry a load of laundry on the clothesline in our backyard. And while working on my computer in the living room, I didn’t pay attention to the sound of our next-door neighbors power-washing the back of their house. That is, until the smell of chlorine alerted me to a looming disaster.
Unbeknown by the neighbors, chemicals from their power-washing had sprayed over the fence. It went onto my clothes on the line. To my horror, I discovered huge ugly bleach stains on several articles of clothing. Including my favorite blue flowered sundress, a staple of my summer wardrobe.
“They’re just clothes, they’re just clothes”, I reminded myself over and over, struggling to compose the rising feelings of indignation. And it didn’t help matters that our neighbor was not very sympathetic.
“Well, it’s not really my fault,” she quickly defended herself when confronted with the ruined clothing. “Your clothesline is too close to the fence. Maybe you should move it.”
I stewed inwardly the rest of the day. She’s not even sorry about it! She could at least apologize! It can’t undo the damage, but she at least owes me that much!
As I was feeling sorry for myself, I remembered stories from my Italian grandma’s years as a missionary in Mexico. Their small house was always crowded with lively teenagers from the church, or extra guests around the table, sharing plentiful dishes of lasagna and home-made meatballs. My grandparents’ hospitality and generosity was often put to the test. Such as when one of the teens broke a valuable vase, or when a friend borrowed their car and accidentally drove it off a cliff! (The friend survived, miraculously, but the car did not.)
I can still see the twinkle in my grandma’s eyes as she told me, “Well, doll, all the things we have belong to the Lord, anyway. He’s just letting us borrow them!”
Forgiving without Receiving Apology
And then she would quote Hebrews 10:34, “You joyfully accepted the spoiling of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.”
Remembering my grandma’s words, I realized I needed to release my neighbors from any claim I felt I had for an apology or restitution. Asking the Lord to change my heart, I prayed for the grace to forgive. And the next time I saw my neighbors, I was able to greet them with a smile. Without any lingering resentment – despite the lack of apology!
As an added blessing, my mother was able to work a miracle with dye and permanent markers to restore my blue flowered dress! I wore it the very next day. And unless you knew what had happened, you couldn’t tell where the bleach spots had been! Now every time I wear that dress, I’m reminded to forgive in the little things, and to “accept the spoiling of my goods with joy!”