When you forgive someone and let whatever you were holding onto go, you can see things clearer.
The man I never forgave until after he died was named Marty. Shamefully I will admit, I hated him – for years. He came into mine and my family’s life when I was just 5 years old. I knew from the day I met him that I didn’t like him. There was just a something about him that made my 5 year-old self uncomfortable…it also made my 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 year-old self uncomfortable, too. My 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19 year old self tried to forget about him.
The day I met Marty I was 5 years old, it was summer, and he came over to our house to see my Dad. (This was pre-divorce, so my biological parents were still married.) I was playing outside in one of those plastic pools with my sisters, Mom and Dad were sitting together at the round wooden picnic table in the backyard, and all was right in the world. Then, Marty came walking around the house to the backyard. Greetings were exchanged and my Mom, being the excellent host that she is, immediately went to get our guest something to drink (and to refill my Dad’s tea glass, too). I went inside with my Mommy and sat on the table (she hated when I did that…and she still does) while she put ice in a glass, refilled Dad’s tea, and filled a glass of sweet tea for Marty. (Yes, I am from the South.) Upon Mom sitting Marty’s tea glass down on the table beside me for a moment, I promptly spit in it. Yes, you read right: I SPIT in his tea. Straight up, no remorse. My Mom, of course, was dumbfounded that her “sweet” baby girl would do such a thing. After all, I wasn’t known for ever spitting on people or things or especially on other people’s things. Why did I do such a thing? I didn’t like Marty. I was little. I didn’t know how to show my displeasure in a big way except to do something that seemed so….appalling.
Let me just tell you something: children have a keen sense about people, just like dogs. If you are a parent and your kids instantly don’t like someone, there’s a reason for that. Explore that reason. At age five I knew Marty was not a good man. But I was just a kid….what did I know?
Marty became a “family friend.” I say that in quotations because I never considered him a friend and it was MY family. I don’t know how my sisters really felt about him, and I guess I still don’t. We don’t talk about him anymore, now that we’re adults and he’s dead. We don’t really have a reason to. Anyway, as a “family friend” we saw Marty often and my parents made the fifteen minute drive down dirt roads to his house with us in tow as much as he came to our house.
When I was 8 years old and my parents were getting divorced, whose “side” did Marty take in the divorce? Mom’s, of course! He was supposed to be a friend of Dad’s…but he quickly changed sides. As you can guess, he developed some weird fancy for my mother. It wasn’t too noticeable right then, but later it became completely apparent.
A single mother of three girls who works 9 hours a day would need a sitter….right? Right! Marty, being the “helpful” family friend he was, volunteered to see to it we ate breakfast and lunch while Mom was at work in the summer and we were out of school.
There are two summer instances for quick reference between when I was 8 years old and when I was 12 years old of interaction with Marty. First: one summer my sisters and I worked on his land during the mornings helping pile fallen tree limbs, rake leaves (avoiding all the snakes, of course!), and whatever we could to help clear off more land for the horses to roam on. In exchange, he bought us season passes to the city pool and dropped us off at the pool every afternoon. Okay, that wasn’t so bad…but he was such a hateful man and it was hard to spend 4-6 hours around him as he told you what to do. Rude demeanor, mean eyes, and I generally disliked being around him.
Second instance: One summer, I think it was when I was 10 years old (or maybe 11?), Mom had to work late. I had softball practice, so Marty offered to take me. He came over that morning while me and the sisters were getting ready to go and I was brushing my hair when he kept nagging me that I was taking too long. So, I tossed the hairbrush near his feet when I was done. Yes, I realize that was not the best attitude…but I was a kid, give me a break. Instead of being a normal adult and scolding me for that behavior, Marty picked the hairbrush up and chased me through our house until I was cornered and threw it at me. I’m not talking a toss at my feet or a gentle toss to the shoulder. I’m talking: he rared back and threw that plastic hairbrush. I can’t remember now if it him my arm or my leg, but I just remember two things: it hurt, and I hated him.
Flash forward to when I was 12 years old. My Mom had figured out Marty fancied her and she was not reciprocal. Thus, contact was minimal to non-existent. Until…he began repeatedly calling our house and leaving messages on the answering machine (remember those?) about contraband and burning our house down and all of these wicked things. I only remember being allowed to hear one of the messages..and in slurred speech he had stated he was going to burn our house down. (Did I mention he was a disabled war veteran who most likely had PTSD but refused any sort of treatment? Fact.)
Not long after the answering machine messages starting coming did Marty take things to a new level. My Mom had been leaving for work in the mornings at 4am at the time. Even the sun refused to rise that early. One morning she got into the car and started down our driveway (it’s long and starts flat, then progresses to a hill in which our house is on top of). As she got to the bottom of the driveway to the flatter part, she notices Marty’s truck stationary, no lights on, blocking her path out. Now, I don’t know if she opened the door or rolled down the window, but she calls out to ask what in the world he was doing there and that he needed to leave. He repeatedly tells her just to get in his truck, they needed to talk….blah, blah, blah. Long story short here, Marty ends up leaving either after the police were called or threatened to be called. Not long after our “family friend” Marty became our “family restraining order recipient.” He wasn’t allowed within 500 feet of my Mom, me, or my sisters.
I saw him after that a few times in the local grocery store between the ages of 16-18. I was a cashier there in the evenings after school. He looked terrible…sick, old, sad. I still hated him, but I also felt bad for him. How can one person end up so terrible?
Let me tell you how. He didn’t believe in God, and certainly not Jesus. He spoke against God. I now believe, as a more mature Christian, that he had some kind of demonic possession. I know a lot of unbelievers and, while they do not know the joy of the Lord and how it feels to live in the love and grace of God, they are not mean like Marty, my soul does not feel automatically uncomfortable by their presence. Marty was headed to hell. No amount of “planting seeds” worked. He refused and denied the Lord as long as I knew him. He was mean. He was uncomfortable. He was scary.
I found out the Thanksgiving break of freshman year that Marty had died. As much as I hate to admit this, I wasn’t sorry — I was glad. I was glad that I would never have to see him again. I was glad that he was gone. I was glad that there was never a chance that he could kidnap my Mom. I was glad he was dead.
The terrible thing is: I am almost certain he took his last breath denying the Lord. I am almost certain he is spending eternity in a place I shouldn’t wish on anyone — in hell. I am almost certain that his demons rode his soul straight to the pits of hell.
As a Christian this should bother me. As a Christian, it does bother me — but it didn’t always. No amount of praying now will get his soul to Heaven. No amont of begging God will change where Marty ended up. However, I do forgive him (finally) for everything he did. For all the wrong things he did. In the absence of the Lord is where evil abounds, and Marty was empty of the Lord. He was evil. Maybe it’s wrong or not politically correct to say that, but it’s true.
I make no apologies for not liking him. I make no apologies for spitting in his tea when I was 5 years old. I make no apologies for telling my sisters and my Mom how much I hated him. I make no apologies for that. But, I am remorseful that I held what he did against him until after he died. I am remorseful that I wasn’t sorry when he died. I am remorseful that it has taken until recently for me to be bothered that he is in hell. Yes, I apologize for that.
Marty is no longer the man I never forgave, but as sure as you are reading this: I forgive him. My heart will simply always be broken for him and his eternal destination.