“Can we have a tea party, YaYa?” she asked, her five-year-old eyes wide with anticipation.
I hardly ever say no. The old china cabinet—really just a bookcase in disguise—has shelves full of double stacked floral patterned teacups. And everybody knows real teacups are a lot more fun to use at a tea party than tiny little plastic ones.
She knew I’d say yes. Immediately she began pulling on the cabinet’s doorknob, but that’s where I had to intervene.
“Let me open the door, Allie,” I said, as I crossed the room.
It’s a temperamental cabinet with precarious shelves and an uncooperative knob that doesn’t even oblige me very often, though it’s known me for twenty-five years. You’d think it’d give me a break. Actually, that’s what I was afraid of. I didn’t want the door to come flying open and baptize my grandbaby in broken porcelain.
But how do you explain that to a five-year-old with an “I can do it!” look in her eyes?
This morning, lost in thought, I found myself staring at that stubborn old cabinet for no apparent reason. I like the unique beauty of its every single cup. I even like the weathered wood of the doors, which sort of keep my little treasures safe behind glass.
But I wasn’t thinking about tea parties or broken teacups today. I was thinking about broken hearts. Broken relationships. Broken dreams.
Right now, listening to easy jazz in my favorite coffee shop, I don’t want to go back to my dark thoughts of this morning. It’s painful, and kind of embarrassing, to cry in the middle of Starbucks. You’ll never know the end of the story unless I do, though. Thank goodness the napkins are plentiful and free here.
I have some broken relationships that I would really like to mend. And, as a “good Christian” and decent human being with failures of my own, that seems like the right and proper thing to do. Advice is plentiful from the well meaning. “Forgiveness is for you,” they say, misunderstanding what’s already happened in my heart. “You don’t want to become bitter, do you?” But forgiveness isn’t the issue. Trust is.
How do you have a relationship without trust?
Injury caused brokenness and estrangement. And, even though I’ve addressed the wound with professionals, the pain keeps resurfacing, taunting me with a promise of total healing if I will just get on the phone, explain my silence, and let bygones be bygones. “Then we could all move on,” goes the thought.
But I’ve learned that forgiveness doesn’t heal wounds or wound heels. Instead, it extinguishes my claim to revenge. That’s the part that frees a crippled heart—surrendering the right to retaliate. Still, like a soldier wounded in battle, years later you can find yourself imbedded with shrapnel. After one terrible experience. Eventually every piece will come to the surface, but seldom all at once. And, one piece of shrapnel at a time, you must deal with the wound caused you by someone else.
Even if you forgave them.
So I leaned on the counter, staring at an old china cabinet that threatens at any moment to surrender to old age and throw a dozen fragile teacups onto the tile floor. And I remembered how eager my granddaughter was to open that difficult door all by herself. Determined to enjoy a party with me. Impatient to help.
And I heard the Lord.
“You’re anxious to help Me, too,” He said. “But you told me you’d let Me handle it.”
He was right. I did.
“If you try to fix this relationship yourself, instead of waiting for Me to do it, you’ll regret it as much as if Allie opened that door by herself.”
I got the picture—I’m quick like that.
I also got relief. He wasn’t disappointed in me. He does not expect me to “fix” things. He’s still removing the shrapnel, piece by painful piece, from my heart. Healing, and maybe even some amount of reconciliation, will happen on His timetable—not mine or anyone else’s.
He’s the only One Who can safely open those fragile doors.