Some of you might remember my story of the necklace – the necklace I stole right out of a classmate’s desk when I was in the third grade. I never returned the necklace to its owner, and I never admitted to anyone that I stole it until I wrote about it on my blog, nearly thirty-five years later.
Two years ago on Easter Sunday afternoon I opened my in-box to discover an email from a former classmate. She’d come across my blog, read the story about the stolen necklace – her necklace, as it turned out – and wrote to tell me that she was, in fact, the girl.
Her tone was less-than-pleased, as you can imagine. I read her brief email three times, my stomach churning more with each word. And as I read, I realized I had never once considered her story in the three decades that had passed.
So wrapped up in my own guilt and spiritual angst, I never once considered how she must have felt the day she realized her necklace was gone, stolen by a classmate right out of her own desk. I never once imagined how she’d felt betrayed, targeted, isolated and scorned. And I never considered how she might feel should she read about the incident thirty-five years later – how it might open old wounds, tear open scars never entirely healed.
I was reminded of that stolen necklace once again when I read the familiar story of Jacob and Esau this week. It’s hard for me to get past Jacob’s behavior in this story. It’s difficult to understand how God could bless such an obviously flawed and deceitful person. Until, that is, I remember my own story of deceit. Like me, I suspect Jacob never considered his father’s or brother’s feelings when he deceived them. I suspect he acted only for himself, never once considering the wounds he would leave behind in his wake.
The grace in this story comes later, years later, when Jacob repents and Esau unexpectedly forgives. Likewise, the grace in my own story of brokenness came years later too, when, on Easter Sunday, I finally repented and my classmate forgave.
After I received her initial email, I agonized for a few hours before I finally replied to my former classmate, apologizing not only for stealing her necklace, but also for wounding her. She graciously accepted my apology, noting that it was a long time ago. Apologies not necessary, she insisted. “I wish you peace, love and happiness for the rest of your life,” she wrote at the end of her last email. And I know it sounds silly because it happened forever ago, but I felt gratitude and relief when I read those words on my computer screen. Probably much like the gratitude and relief Jacob felt when his brother forgave him.
Every time I read the story of Jacob and Esau, I forget that God’s plan is much bigger than any I can ever envision. I forget that he is always working to bring everything together for good, no matter how bad, how ugly or how broken it all looks at the start. Jacob was prepared to receive his brother’s ire, but he received only forgiveness and love instead. I was prepared to suffer the consequences of my wrongdoing, but I received forgiveness and love instead. In both cases, God turned a bad decision into an unexpected and undeserved blessing. He turned grit into grace.
Question for Reflection:
Can you think of an experience in your own life in which God turned a bad decision into a blessing, grit into grace?
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