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The Power of Grace

Two dinners, same two people, same restaurant, ten years apart, much different feeling walking away.

In the fall of 2013, I had dinner with a girlfriend. I was struggling in so many ways – life, marriage, and motherhood were all difficult. Twelve years without a mother and I was sinking – desperately grasping for a life jacket but an emptiness created long before continued to gnaw at my heart.

I’m not sure which one of us initiated the dinner invitation but I was desperate to share my current anguish with someone. I trusted her with a deepening degree of honesty and for a couple of hours I verbally vomited all over the table between us. She listened with a mixture of compassion and probably disappointment, wide eyed at times and teary eyed at others.

A few nights later came the conversation with my husband at the kitchen island that I wrote about in my book; the night I said I’d rather live in a cardboard box than be unhappy. He knew details of my heart I had only shared with my friend, and it was clear she had reported back to him following our dinner. At that time, I felt I had foolishly trusted someone and was left hurt and betrayed.

I worked through my hurt, but our friendship was never the same. Work, family and life took us in different directions, and we spent years with no communication.

A few months ago, she reached out, asking for a copy of my book. Her request left me with chills knowing she would relate to the book in very specific ways but also that she would recognize certain parts where she was closely involved in our lives. She read quickly and sent me a beautiful text aligning our stories, sharing some takeaways as well as adding a proposal to get together and discuss in person. In my teary response I thanked her for her intuitive words and for “helping me make some important changes all those years ago.” And, of course, a yes to dinner once we got through the holidays.

Dinner was scheduled for the second time in ten years and for old times’ sake we agreed to meet at the same restaurant. After hugs and nearly two hours of catching up I said, “So, let’s talk about the book!” She pulled a piece of notebook paper from her purse, handwritten on both sides, and proceeded to read her list of takeaways. She then handed the paper to me to read the next paragraph which expressed some pain in learning my story and not being around to walk through it with me, but also the faith she had always had in my marriage and the joy that it had survived well. Then came the question about the “important changes” I had mentioned in my text, and I had to pause to put my ten-year-old hurt-turned-gratitude into words.

Ten years ago, in that very restaurant, I had opened my broken heart to her. I had emotionally gutted myself only to feel betrayed in the end. What I didn’t realize then was that her motivation was purely out of love for Jarrod and me as a couple, and her intent was only to help us save our marriage. She did not go to my husband with the details of my purging. She went to him out of fear and said, “If you don’t fight for her, your marriage may not survive!” This led to his question of how we could possibly walk away without even trying, which led to counseling, which led to the first full outpouring of my story… which has led to so much more. She had not betrayed my trust or breached my confidence – she had fought for me!

Over the past ten years I had forgiven her. Even if she had betrayed my confidence with every detail, I had forgiven her because the truth had forced me to be honest with my husband and more importantly, with myself. I had learned to be grateful for her involvement that pushed our marriage to the level of brutal honesty. She had inadvertently opened my eyes to the person I no longer wanted to be. She entered our dinner this past weekend not knowing if or how our friendship had weathered over the last many years. I, on the other hand, was only full of grace. I had forgiveness in my heart for what I thought she had done but had never shared my grace and gratitude for what she had truly done. As I listened to her side of the story for the first time a weight lifted that I never realized I had been carrying. I had prayed that morning that our time be filled with grace and as the conversation flowed, I believe we physically watched any decade-old tension wash away. Our faces brightened and our eyes softened as it was clear we only had love and respect for each other. After nearly four hours of conversation life was different for both of us!

So, why tell this story? Why step into an even deeper level of vulnerability? Because my heart is dancing. Because grace is important. Forgiveness, we are told, is not always about the other person. Forgiveness in the healing process is choosing not to carry a burden that has been weighing us down. Forgiving someone does not always constitute reconciliation BUT, sometimes it does. Often times it’s critical to make forgiveness known and to give grace on an intimate basis. This beautiful woman was not aware that I had forgiven her so many years ago, that I was beyond excited to spend the evening with her. She came to our dinner date with anxiety about a questionable friendship. It saddened me to learn that the grace I had given her in my heart had not been conveyed or understood in her own heart until now. Ten years is a long time and we missed out on a lot, but we have agreed not to look back on that time with regret. God’s timing is always perfect, and we both feel there is a reason He’s reuniting us now. We are only looking forward!





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