The Christmas Card
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"I've got it," the bald man said. "Can you let it go?"
Sophie was locked in a standoff with a U.S. Postal worker, gripping the red envelope in a mini tug-of-war.
She had woken up early this morning to put the last stamp on the last Christmas card and send it on its way. But could Sophie do it? Could she really send a friendly holiday greeting to someone who had hurt her so badly?
After ten years of friendship, Sophie had broken ties with Nicole months ago. What had started as a minor disagreement a few years back had morphed into an insurmountable wall. They had ended their friendship in silent agreement, though Sophie knew that Nicole had circulated rumors that the discord was all Sophie's fault.
After their falling out, Sophie had yearned for justice, a bit of karma to bite her former friend in the butt. Not usually a crier, Sophie grieved the loss of a decade of closeness in tears that sprang forth unbidden. In the bathtub. In the car. Sometimes she would even awake in the night to find herself sobbing. In the wee hours, Sophie would drag herself to the living room couch so as not to disturb her husband. Wrapped in a fuzzy throw, she cried until her gut ached and her eyes puffed up like she'd had an allergic reaction.
Sophie knew she was supposed to forgive. She'd been a Jesus girl since Vacation Bible School where she'd memorized the books of the New Testament and given God her heart somewhere between Matthew and Revelation. But how did one forgive someone in a relationship that was wrecked beyond fixing? How did one move on when the offense didn't go away?
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"Rough Christmas this year?" The bald man's voice snapped her back to the present.
"Yeah, I guess," Sophie replied.
The man, whose name tag read "Kevin", released the card and Sophie shoved it quickly back into her purse.
"What's going on?" Kevin asked.
This is silly, Sophie thought, I don't need to tell my problems to a USPS employee. Yet she couldn't seem to help herself.
"I broke up with my friend this fall and I know that sending a card is the right thing to do -- 'Peace on Earth' and all that -- but I feel like I'm giving in."
Kevin nodded, rubbing his bald head.
"You want to teach your friend a lesson," he said. "You want her to hurt the same way she's hurt you."
Sophie's jaw dropped.
"That's exactly how I feel. How did you know?"
"Been there done that," Kevin replied with a wry smile. "I've taken matters into my own hands a time or two and it wasn't very pretty. To be honest, I think I felt worse afterward."
Strains of Bing Crosby crooning Silent NIght echoed through the post office speakers.
"I feel pretty crappy right now, actually" Sophie admitted
"And you think holding a grudge is going to help?"
"I don't know how, but yes. It's silly, but I feel somehow obligated to make sure things are fair and square. No Christmas card from me, no satisfaction that she won and I lost. I guess it's my own sick sense of justice."
"That's a big responsibility, acting as judge and jury to the whole world. And, by the way, that job's already taken so you can let yourself off the hook."
"What do you mean?" Sophie asked.
"Can I see that card you brought in?"
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Sophie fished the card out of her purse once again and placed it on the counter between them. How was no one else waiting in line at the post office right now? Sophie thought.Talk about a Christmas miracle.
"What do you see?" Kevin asked, pointing to the Christmas stamp on the envelope.
Sophie felt a bit silly getting an object lesson from her local mail carrier, but what did she have to lose?
"The Nativity," she answered. "Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, the star...all of it."
"Exactly," Kevin said. "You're busy trying to mete out your own brand of justice when -- the way I see it -- justice has already been done." Kevin jabbed a meaty finger at the stamp. "Signed, sealed, and delivered right there in that little baby. Shouldn't that free you up to send your card along and trust God to take care of the rest?"
Sophie chewed the side of her cheek as Kevin's words sank in. Nicole had ignored Sophie's feelings and broken her trust over and over again. Their friendship would likely never be mended. Still, that didn't make Sophie responsible for teaching Nicole a lesson. Only God could do that. She had assigned herself an impossible task that already had a check mark beside it. Her sole responsibility was to continue to reach out in love as she struggled to grasp the message Jesus was sent to live out.
Suddenly, Sophie felt lighter, kind of like the feeling she used to get after taking her last semester final in college.
Placing both hands on the card, she slid it to the opposite side of the counter where Kevin stood waiting.
"So...can you let it go?" Kevin repeated, one eyebrow raised playfully.
Just then, the bell on the door jingled and a tall, silver-haired man laden with packages bustled in.
"Yes, I believe I can," Sophie replied. "Thanks for the Sunday School lesson. I guess I'd forgotten it somewhere along the way."
"We all need to be reminded from time to time. Have a Merry Christmas, M'aam!" Kevin's eyes twinkled.
"You too, Kevin!" Sophie hurried out the door into the brisk winter air. The clouds were heavy with the promise of a white Christmas and Sophie couldn't wait to get home to bake cookies.
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Is there someone you're struggling to forgive this Christmas? Forgiving a person doesn't mean forgetting the offense, nor letting that person hurt you again. The unfortunate truth is that some people are not safe to share our lives with. Instead, forgiveness means asking God for help in removing the chip from your shoulder, choosing each day to act in loving ways, and trusting God to handle the justice part of the equation.
Reach out to someone you've had difficulty forgiving through a card, a phone call, or a plate of Christmas cookies. You'll have to decide whether to mend fences or simply reach out in love as a deliberate act of forgiveness and healing for yourself. Trust God to take care of the rest.
Merry Christmas, Friends!