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In the meantime, here's the story of the offense I can't seem to get over. I hasten to add that this occurred before I encountered, and received, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Perhaps the worst incident of all occurred on the Christmas Eve before she got sick. I was taking her back to the nursing home after a present-opening night at our house, with both my sisters and their families and even a visiting dog to chase my cats.
My mother had clearly had a nice time with us; she had been all smiles, all evening. And then, alone with me in my rusting Chevy Blazer, barreling up nearly deserted Barker Road, she sighed.
“I hate having to go back to the old ladies’ home,” she said. “I have that awful aide tonight, the one who’s so rough with me, and –"
“I can’t believe you!” I snapped, looking at her with my most outraged expression, sure that she was not-so-subtly hinting that she would like to come live with us. “You’re sweetness and light all night long, until you’re alone with me – and then all you can do is complain!"
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen her look so sad.
“I’m sorry,” she said quietly. “It’s just that you’re the only one I can talk to about these things."
“Well, I can’t do anything about it,” I said, calmer now and already feeling guilty. I knew I’d need a good hour or two to think this one through until I found a way to justify my outburst. “Anyway, if you would just be a little nicer to this aide, maybe she’d be nicer to you."
As it turned out, I never was able to justify what I’d said to her that night. I wept over it more than once, and to this day cringe whenever I remember it. I think I see it as a symbol of all the pain I had caused her over our lives together, of all the times I’d trashed the wonderful things God had given me.
There were other such incidents throughout my life, most directed at other people – scores of them, no doubt. I guess it doesn’t matter that I’ve forgotten the details. What matters is that it doesn’t have to happen again ...
And yet, amazing God, He has seen my contrite heart and forgiven me even for this.
And more: As Isaac Watts wrote in his 1707 hymn “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed?”:
Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
(From Heaven Without Her, pages 199-200)