so when I’ve sat across the table from my friend Vaneetha on many occasions, each time, not only do I not want the conversation not to end — I’m profoundly moved and deeply affected by this woman’s Jesus-saturated love.What she shares — is always unforgettable. She’s walked the hardest roads with the greatest grace — I could weep for the way this woman puts skin on Jesus’ love… There are no words to convey the privilege it is to share my friend, Vaneetha with you today from the farm’s front porch…..
T he summer after he left was excruciating.
We had been married almost 20 years, endured countless storms, including burying a son together.
I would have never expected to be raising two adolescent daughters alone.
Separation, divorce, single-parenting was for other people. People I prayed for and took meals to. People who didn’t know Jesus.
I wasn’t sure how a believing wife was supposed to respond.
Especially a wife who had been discarded.
No one gave me a script. I knew we were supposed to love our enemies but I couldn’t pray for people who had hurt me like this. Even if it would heap burning coals on their heads.
All I could do was pray that my pain and anger wouldn’t consume me.
Sometimes that worked.
But sometimes the pain was so intense I could scarcely breathe.
He had moved on. He wondered why I couldn’t. Why I had to hold on to the past. Why I couldn’t just let go.
How do you let go of a life?
One you had built together but is now in ruins. And now, after decades of work, you’re forced to start building another. Alone.
I felt battered and raw.
And then I read it. In a book I was reading about God’s crazy love for us.
God wanted me to forgive. Even in the midst of a hopeless mess, when I had no idea how this was all going to turn out, the first thing I needed to do was forgive.
It was unthinkable.
Forgiving was too hard. The wound too fresh. My bruises too tender.
Maybe 5 years later in a therapist’s office after everything had been settled and I had moved on. But not now. Maybe not ever.
But as I reread the words, I realized God was not merely asking me to forgive. He was asking the impossible.
I closed the book. I wanted to throw it against the wall. I was shocked that God would even suggest this.
How strong did He think I was?
But as I scanned the lines once more, tears cascading down my cheeks, I knew He had entrusted me with something precious.
Tell her about Jesus.
She, the woman who had splintered my life. Who was building her life on the ashes of mine. Who had wounded me so deeply, so permanently, and yet so callously.
I was a stranger to her. Unimportant. Someone who just stood in her way.
She got what she wanted. Why would I want her to know about Jesus? Why would I want her to share the one thing she hadn’t taken? Why should I care about her at all?
Because Jesus wanted me to. It was that simple.
He wanted me to pray for her. Really pray. Not pray that she would let go of my husband. Or make amends with me. Or focus on her repentance.
No, just pray that she would see the beauty of Him who died for her.
So I stayed up all night and wrote her a letter about God’s extravagant love and forgiveness.
I began by sitting at the computer, sobbing. This was crazy. What should I even say?
But as I prayed, God gave me the words, His words, of grace and forgiveness.
I must confess, I never thought I’d write this letter to you. I wanted to hate you, but somehow I could not. I, who have experienced Calvary love, knew that the God who died for me and for you would not let me hate.
…I have been asking God that you would truly experience abundant life.
…He says in His word, “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with lovingkindness…” Jeremiah 31:3
…The cross changes everything. We exchange our sin, our shame, our mistakes and regrets for His righteousness and grace and peace.
…You may wonder what my agenda is. I don’t have any hidden agenda but simply offer this letter to you in obedience to a life-giving, relentless God to whom I owe everything.
With every word I typed, I cried less and prayed more. Something was changing inside of me. I couldn’t explain it.
I am ashamed to admit how hard my heart was when I started. But by the time I dropped off my letter at the post office, I was radically different.
My bitterness had somehow evaporated. I wanted her to know Jesus and prayed that she would. That was more important than anything.
And after I left the post office, I wondered how God was going to use my offering.
Was she going to commit her life to Jesus? Was my sacrifice going to bear fruit? It had to, didn’t it? This was not my initiative. It was God’s.
I waited and prayed. For days. And then weeks. Then months.
I never heard back from her.
I was told she received it, but I have no idea what she thought. I hadn’t asked for a response, though I’d hoped to get one anyway.
My letter was written out of obedience. Grudging obedience to be honest.
I knew I would have no peace if I didn’t write it. I knew once God revealed His will to me, I had to follow through.
Months later, I was thinking about the situation, wondering why God had called me to write.
My letter seemingly had no impact at all. It had cost me so much, yet it had yielded no fruit.
Then I realized my actions had made a difference. A monumental, life-altering difference.
But the difference was in me.
Writing the letter kept me from being bitter. From giving in to self-pity and destructive anger. From wanting revenge.
Writing the letter transformed my identity from a wounded victim to a compassionate Christ-follower. It was one of the most freeing exchanges I’ve ever made.
And for that, I will always be grateful.
The words God used to convict me?
“The love for equals is a human thing–of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles.
The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing–the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.
The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing–to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints.
And then there is the love for the enemy–love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.”
I echo that.
This is God’s love. It conquers the world.
My brave friend, Vaneetha Rendall is a follower of Jesus who is passionate about helping others find joy in the midst suffering. She has not walked an easy road but the extravagance of God’s love continues to amaze her. Vaneetha blogs here and is a regular contributor for Today’s Christian Woman and Desiring God.