By LESLIE LUDY
When I was sixteen, my brothers and I regularly visited residents at our local nursing home. Our favorite person to visit was a delightful little lady named Dolly. She was eighty-seven years old, nearly blind and in frail health, but she was truly radiant. She loved to talk about God, and she encouraged and blessed everyone she came into contact with. Her joy was contagious. It was clear that Dolly was not holding on to bitterness or regret about her life. I think that was what made Dolly stand out so dramatically from the rest of the patients.
So many of the older men and women we encountered seemed to be wallowing in resentment. One woman named Sylvia had once been a fashion model. On her dresser was a framed photo of herself during her modeling days, when she was young and glamourous. But now in her old age, there was nothing left of her beauty. She was hardened and bitter. Every time we talked with her, she was complaining or criticizing all the people that had wronged her over the years. It was clear she was wallowing in unforgiveness, and it had destroyed her life.
It was stunning to see the difference in these two elderly women. Both at of them were at the end of their years. But while Dolly glowed with loveliness and joy, Sylvia, the former beauty queen, wasted away in bitterness and ugliness.
It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten. It helped me realize that not only is forgiveness the pattern of the Gospel, it’s a crucial element to true feminine beauty — the kind of beauty that will last long after physical allure has faded.
Bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness can turn even the most physically beautiful woman into an angry, hardened, unattractive female. The Bible tells us, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness than with a contentious and angry woman” (Prov. 21:19).
By the same token, graciousness, forgiveness, and guilelessness marks a woman with Christ-like, heavenly loveliness, no matter her age or physical appearance.
At the end of my life, I want to glow with joy like Dolly, not wallow in resentment like Sylvia. But in order for that to happen, I must refuse to let bitterness take hold of my heart. To become a Christ-like woman, forgiveness is not optional. I cannot have a vibrant relationship with Christ or be an example of godly femininity if I am holding resentment and unforgiveness in my heart. In fact, Christ goes as far as to say I will not receive forgiveness from my Heavenly Father if I do not forgive those who have wronged me.
To become a forgiving woman is not easy. In fact, it’s not even possible without the enabling power of God working in our lives. But our Lord promises to give us all things that we need for life and godliness (see 2 Peter 1:3), and that includes the power to forgive.
Corrie ten Boom told the story of meeting one of the men who had been responsible for her sister’s death—years after she and Betsy suffered terribly in a Nazi prison camp. One of the cruelest guards had come to hear her speak in a church. He did not recognize her, but she certainly recognized him. He told her how much her message meant to him and how it gave him hope that God could forgive him for all the evil he had done in his life. And then he reached out to shake her hand in friendship and thanks. As he extended his hand to her, she felt frozen to the spot. How could she show friendship and forgiveness to one who had shown such cruelty to her and her family? She told God, “I will take the step of showing forgiveness to him, but You must supply the feeling.” Mechanically, she lifted her hand to shake the man’s hand. As soon as she did, she was flooded with a warmth, love, and concern for this man that only God could have supplied.
I often think of that powerful story whenever I’m struggling to forgive someone who has hurt me. Rather than trying to muster up warm fuzzy feelings toward that person, I remember that forgiveness must begin with a choice, a step of obedience, even if the feelings of love and forgiveness don’t come until later. When I choose to obey God and forgive, no matter what my emotions may be telling me, He always supplies the grace that I need to not only forgive those who have wronged me, but to truly love and care for them.
If you are struggling with unforgiveness, ask God to enable you to let go of your resentment and become a channel of His love toward the person who has wronged you. You might not feel the emotions of love and compassion right away, but when you take the step to forgive and rely on God to do this rest, you can be sure that He will work that profound miracle within your soul.
As you allow God to shape you into a forgiving woman, you’ll begin radiate with a heavenly loveliness that impacts the world around you. And at the end of your life, you’ll radiate with the same glow that Dolly had, and carry a lasting beauty with you into eternity.