My son laughed when I said, “I finally got to ask her for forgiveness.”
It was over some wind chimes. They have been hanging on my back porch for decades. They are really nice ones — expertly tuned, peaceful, and a delight to listen to. They had been given to me by a friend. My children had grown up with them outside their bedroom windows. My family had laid together in the giant hammock when the kids were little and listened to them hundreds of times. They brought me joy – they brought all of us joy.
But my neighbor suddenly wanted them removed. She had lived next to us for more than a decade, but suddenly they were bothering her. I didn’t remove them the first time she called. I didn’t removed them when she wrote a letter to the homeowners association.
She and her husband had been annoying over the years. They had had a treasured dogwood and a few pine trees removed that were on our land while we were at work one day. They had sprayed the ivy I had planted with poison and killed it along with two rare redwoods that my husband had planted when we first moved in. They had complained about our little Jack Russel barking and my son practicing music with his friends on our back porch. They had built an addition onto their house that was inside the easement where they shouldn’t have built — encroaching on our lot. Now she wanted me to remove my very much loved wind chimes.
So when I got her note from the homeowners association, I called her. Without compassion, love, or kindness, I unloaded all the tension that had been building over the years on her until she cried. I told her she was a terrible neighbor.
She lives behind me and our lots are big enough and wooded enough that I don’t ever see or hear her family. I might not have even recognized her if I had run into her at the grocery store. In fact, after that I never got another note or phone call. I hadn’t seen her until a new neighbor was in trouble a few weeks ago. She called me afterwards. It was then I told her I was sorry for being so angry that day.
Her response was “Oh… you were kind compared to the other neighbors.” She told me how they had reacted to similar complaints that she had made with them. Over time she had come to believe that she was the one in the wrong. Maybe she was, but she was sweeping away my wrongness and I didn’t want her to. I wanted her to know I was truly sorry that I hadn’t treated her with kindness and respect. So I repeated my apology.
I had been carrying around this feeling of having hurt someone and the relief in telling her I was wrong felt good. I had not been the hands and feet of Jesus that day and I was ashamed. I could have stood my ground that day several years ago and told her the chimes would stay without being ugly about it. I could have explained why they were so important to me. I could have listened to what was going on in her life and tried to understand what was making the chimes suddenly sound so offensive to her. But I was too angry to listen and too annoyed to be gentle.
Saying “I am sorry” felt good and right.
My son laughed at me when I told him, because he would never have been rude to her to begin with. And because it was such a little thing on the big scope of life. He thought it was funny that it still bothered me. Yet, he is always strong and loving at the same time. Where he learned this, I am not sure.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive everyone who sins against us. –Luke 11:4
Check out April’s Books, Disorderly Bible Studies, for group and individual study.