[Editor’s Note: today’s editorial is by Louise Valente of Santa Ana. Her meditation on grudge-bearing and the refusal to forgive invites us to pursue Jesus’ blessed invitation to practice peacemaking.]

“For as pressing milk produces curds, and pressing the nose produces blood,
so pressing anger produces strife.”  Proverbs 30:33

A little over a year ago, our family moved onto a cul de sac. Prior to moving, we had frequently walked the neighborhood with assorted dogs and babies and admired the peace and lovely homes – except one. You know the type – a crumbling two-story house with no grass, no paint, and no signs of life. This particular house is an extreme – black mold is easily visible, and the curtains are rotting from the bottom up.  Windows are boarded up or covered with paper. The neighborhood kids call it the “haunted house” – and it backs up directly to ours. The rumor was that an old man still lived inside.

In moving, we learned the story behind this home.  Thirty years ago, it looked just like the others on the street and held a family of five. Apparently, some neighborhood teenagers were doing “wheelies” in front of the house, and their parents were not properly responsive to requests for this behavior to stop. Tempers were lost, and the owner of the “haunted house” vowed that if others were not going to respect his property rights, he was going to sabotage the neighborhood by refusing to take care of his home.

Thirty or forty years have gone by. Children have grown. Houses have been sold. The elderly man now lives alone in his rotting home. Attempts by neighbors to reach out to him, even when his wife was hospitalized and dying, were met with verbal and physical backlash. He will open the door to only one person, a child in the neighborhood who brings him cookies a few times a year. The neighbors expect that his house will continue to rot until he dies, at which point it will most certainly be torn down.

When I stand at the kitchen window or look out over the 12-foot fence from my children’s bedroom, it is a physical testament to what anger and lack of forgiveness can do to hearts and lives. As I wash our dishes, I ask myself whom I need to forgive, and what bridges I want to build. When I rock our children and turn out the lights, we pray that we will never harden our hearts to others around us in spite of their actions.  When I open the master bathroom window to let in the breeze, I remind myself of the breath of forgiveness of Jesus Christ. and how he never hardens his heart toward His children.

* * *

Dear Lord, help us to be gracious in our relationships with others and to avoid creating strife among those we meet, and help us to forgive others when they are less than gracious to us.  Help us to keep our hearts soft and hold others gently when they are hurting. Let us be peace-makers and not peace-breakers.  Through Christ we pray, Amen.

Andy Wall
Author: Andy Wall