“Great Grandma,” he said as he reached to wrap his arms around her neck for a big hug. “You know what?” “What Justin?” “This has been the best Christmas ever.” She leaned forward in her arm chair and with the biggest grandma squeeze she could muster, said. “Well, I think so too honey, what did you like best?” “Opening presents and pumpkin pie,” he exclaimed, “I sure wish everyday could be Christmas Grandma.”
Soon, everyone had said their goodbyes and Great Grandma retired to her favorite chair, covered herself with a cozy afghan and began rocking quietly. Tears slowly trickled down the deep creases of her weathered cheeks; memories of a wonderful day flooding her soul. It had truly been the best Christmas ever for her too, but for a much different reason.
She thought back to the many Christmas holidays that had come and gone with little more than a signed Christmas card from her estranged daughter. Those holidays had not been followed by tears of joy but of sorrow and heartache. She raised her hands to heaven, looked up and said, “thank you Jesus that those days are behind and that you have brought restoration healing, I love you Jesus.”
What had caused the resentment and anger that Sara, her daughter, had felt towards her for so many years? Maybe it began decades earlier with the many unresolved arguments they had during her teenage years. Perhaps it was the insecurity she felt when her mother and father argued.
Little by little, the rift between them grew until Sara announced her surprising engagement and immediate wedding plans. Sara and her boyfriend, whom her parents hardly knew, had decided to marry before anyone could see that she was pregnant. With that announcement, the growing rift became a canyon.
Mary Ann held nothing back in making her feelings known to Sara. It went something like this. “I would never have believed you would disappoint us like this. You’ve been raised as a Christian and now you’re going to embarrass your dad, me and the whole family, what’s wrong with you?” It was exactly the response that Sara was expecting.
Or perhaps it was the divorce that followed a few years later. Sara’s father, whom she loved and admired, divorced her mother after twenty five years of marriage. It was a devastating blow to Sara which was made even worse when he remarried two weeks later. Her faith in the institution of marriage had been shattered and within a year she had made the decision to end her own shaky marriage.
When the two talked, all Sara heard was repeated accounts of how badly her mother had been treated by her father. True or not, Sara still loved her Dad and tired of the endless barrage of negative comments. And then there was what Sara perceived as constant preaching, being told how to live her life. It wasn’t long until the phone calls became few and far between with most ending in familiar unresolved arguments.
Holidays were hit and miss, and for Sara they had become obligations that she endured for the sake of her children. It was only the love for the grandchildren that kept the door of communication between the two of them even slightly ajar. Yet, on this Christmas day, mother and daughter sat side by side at the dinner table, lovingly holding hands. Tears filling Sara’s eyes as her mother, in a quivering voice, gave thanks for her family and the meal they would soon enjoy.
Two grandchildren and four great grandchildren later, resentment, anger and bitterness had been replaced with love and acceptance. It wasn’t a magical moment, as often portrayed in seasonal feel good movies, that brought about an instant reconciliation between mother and daughter. It was the grace of God, provided through Jesus Christ, written about in His Word and at work through the Holy Spirit that transformed hearts of stone into hearts of clay.
Over time, as Mary Ann searched the scriptures for what she thought would be the keys to changing Sara, she discovered that the Word was changing her instead. She realized for the first time that Jesus loved her, unconditionally, and that she had been completely forgiven for her mistakes as a mother and wife. Her hardened religious heart was gradually transformed into a heart of clay. So much so that she felt she could even forgive the one who had disappointed her most. She forgave herself.
Somewhere in the midst of the transformation she lost all desire to preach to Sara. From the abundance of her heart she began to speak words of blessing and encouragement at every opportunity. For years there seemed to be little change in Sara’s response but the Lord kept reminding Mary Ann of Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
For Sara the road to reconciliation was much different. Although saved as a young girl she had not been living for the Lord. The fruit of her life style had produced nothing but problems, hardships, and regret. In desperation she turned to the One she hand known as a young girl only to find that He had been there all along, waiting patiently for her return.
As the Holy Spirit worked, removing the calluses of hurt that had formed around her heart, the love for her mother slowly returned. She began to long for the relationship that had been lost and to her mother’s surprise, started responding to her overtures with love and thankfulness.
Neither Mary Ann nor her daughter could have bridge the canyon of resentment and unforgivness between them. It was as they allowed the Holy Spirit to change their own hearts that the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) was manifested and a bridge of love was rebuilt. A relationship that had been severed little by little was also restored little by little. And on this special Christmas day it had become evident for all to see. This was the best Christmas ever for Great Grandma.
Mary Christmas and we love you,
Jim and Shirley