“You’ve changed,” she said. Her words trembled, visibly hovering mid-air between us.
Silence. Too much had already been said, repeated, tumbled around in our memories, burned into our interpretation or ignored altogether. More hurtful things waited to be said though, and they remained in her eyes–and probably in mine– quiet accusations tense like ball-bearings held taut in slingshots. I’ve never forgotten that moment. Things between us were never the same after it. I never wanted her to know how badly I was scarred.
It was several years before I realized the healing. Change isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s a necessary one.
Still, change in one person can affect others and it had in this case. The changes she had noted were because I had grown.
I had left behind one life, almost in its entirety. I had moved across the country, leaving behind family and friends–leaving her–and all that I knew for a new job in a new city. Everything I owned fit into a few boxes that were tucked behind the driver of the moving van. Another family’s belongings took over the rest of the truck. I simply didn’t have that much. Not anymore. In the years during which the noted change had occurred, I had started over, supporting myself and eventually repairing my credit rating until I qualified for a mortgage by myself. I made new friends, and established myself in a new church, and in a new career.
I needed to become a person I could like and respect. My counsellor guided me as I chipped away at bitterness, I picked away at my failings until the unscathed layers appeared. I learned to forgive. It was a choice. Forgiveness isn’t the same as forgetting or trusting but both of those could be in my future. It would happen with some serious effort on my part. It had happened with some serious grace on God’s.
The way she looked at me that day–her words weren’t meant as a compliment. When I look back now though, I can take them no other way. It meant so much that she’d noticed.
Hundreds of sick people—blind, crippled, paralyzed—were in these alcoves. One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?” John 5:6 (The MSG)