I’ve seen prayer answered in miraculous ways beyond my expectation. Sometimes I had no expectation at all that there would be an answer, but God was faithful to provide what I needed.
By now, I should assume an answer will be forthcoming. Yet His latest response to a prayer took me by surprise.
I confessed to my Bible study group that I was struggling with my attitude towards my mother-in-law. My focus on a few of her seemingly-insensitive comments over the years had clouded my perspective. I had allowed a tiny seed of bitterness to take root and had convinced myself that she didn’t really like me. I knew I would be spending time with her over the holidays and needed prayer to have a better mindset when we were together.
Several days later, I had the opportunity to share my beloved nativity collection with a friend. As I described each nativity, I heard myself telling the story of how my mother-in-law had given me a ceramic nativity that she made the year my husband was born. She had originally given it to her mother-in-law, but when she died, my mother-in-law reacquired it.
Then came the story of the myrtle-wood nativity that my mother-in-law’s mother had brought back from Israel. As I mentioned that she could have given it to one of my three sisters-in-law or a niece, but instead gave it to me, I realized how special she must consider me.
God used these reminders to begin to uproot that bitter sprout. My attitude softened.
We ended up having great visits both at Thanksgiving and New Year’s weekend. In the morning on New Year’s Day, she asked me a question I didn’t expect. “You must have some good memories of your mom?”
“Not really,” I replied. With what I’d written about my mom in my memoir front and center in my thoughts, I continued, “She had cancer the first time when I was only eight or nine, and then again a year later. She had lost her sister and her mom a few years before that. She was always sick, it seemed, and I don’t remember her ever smiling or being happy.”
The subject changed and the morning continued, with showers and breakfast and packing. Then we all went out to lunch before we had to hit the road for home.
As I usually do before we leave my in-laws’ house, I gave her a hug. “Thanks for coming,” she said. “I love you.”
I love you. With those three little words God completed His answer to my prayer. I don’t ever remember her saying those words to me before.
She has shown me in many ways over the last thirty-two years that she loves me. She’s actually been my mom for more years than my real mom was and has always treated me like a beloved daughter.
And in that moment I also knew that my real mom loved me, too, even though it didn’t always seem like she did and she didn’t say it much.
It’s funny how God knows just the things we need to hear to heal our doubting hearts. He reminded me to focus on the loving acts of others, and not on the careless things someone might have said. After all, we all are prone to let a thoughtless word slip from our lips once in a while.
Are you holding onto a casual remark and bearing a grudge against the one who said it? Have you allowed a seed of bitterness to sprout? Has a past hurt clouded your perspective of how much someone really loves you?
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12–14.
Seeds of bitterness destroy relationships, or at least make them more difficult. Will you ask God for His three-word answer to uproot this noxious weed in your life today? Let me know in the comments so I can pray that His power to forgive will fill you today.