I recently was thinking about a lovely woman in my first congregation who had colon cancer. Martha had received her diagnosis a year or so before I became her pastor. She had given up driving and was living with her daughter in Joliet. The first time I called on her, she mentioned her medical status to me. When the doctor had shared the diagnosis with her and she learned that she still had another four or five years of quality living ahead, she opted for no surgery or treatments. She was quite at peace with her decision and we never spoke of it again. When she entered hospice a few years later, still at home, I would stop by every few days. I last visited with her the day she died. As always, we were able to visit one on one and I leaned in close to hear her whisper to me, ―Do you think I’ll go to heaven?‖ Facing death, it turned out she was troubled by two white lies she had told years ago. Martha, Martha! Would that I could come to my hour of death with only two white lies on my conscience! I asked her if she had already talked to God about it and when she said yes, I assured her that the promises of scripture are true, that God does indeed forgive us when we ask for it. When we parted with prayer, we echoed our trust in God’s grace and forgiveness again.
Knowing Martha has deeply influenced me. She modeled how we should be in relationship with each other – not letting the sun set on our disagreements, working our way through differences for the sake of staying connected, following the Apostle Paul’s advice to speak the truth in love with each other that we might grow up into Christ together (Eph. 4:15-16). I don’t need to know what Martha’s white lies were or why she was unable to reconcile them but I suspect she ran out of the right circumstances to set them straight. She clearly learned to change that pattern and to be reconciled at all times.
I find her example difficult to follow when I feel I have been wronged by someone who does not ask for my forgiveness. Then I remember that when I stand before Jesus some day I will not be answering for anyone but myself in that moment, so I don’t really have to be concerned, long term, with the bad behavior of others. My responsibility is to be accountable for all that I do. Easy to say, more difficult to live by. I am thankful for being able to see this kind of living in others, and for the support God provides to attempt to live it.
Blessings, Rev. Laura