(*Names have been changed to protect identities)
We had been waiting for at least 2 years to go on this family vacation to Maui. We had planned a year in advance to go to Maui (2011), and then a few months before our departure, we discovered that my Father's cancer had progressed to a level and death was imminent in the following months. We cancelled immediately to spend the remaining time with my parents.
We rescheduled the trip for August 2013. What an amazing time we had! Gorgeous weather, old friends to visit, and plenty to do for the family. After a few months of swim team they were ready for some ocean action. After practicing snorkeling, they were all able to participate in viewing the fish and turtles.
Now on Saturday we decided to attend mass at the local Catholic Church in Lahaina. I sat in the 4th row on the left. Shortly after sitting down, I noticed a woman in a beautiful blue and green dress come and sit with her daughter in the first row. As I admired her dress I briefly saw her profile, and thought she looked vaguely familiar.
When my husband arrived, he looked like he had important news. "You'll never believe who I saw." "Who?"
Now, if I were to have an enemy on this earth, it would probably have to be this person. At one point we were fairly close in ministry, but it ended abruptly and legally. Our family was hurt by this person so much, that I still haven't recovered some seven years later and burst into tears at the thought of that time. I haven't been full of animosity, or revenge, or hatred toward her; but definitely do not have an affinity for this person, nor would I ever wish to encounter her. After discovering the identity of this woman sitting three rows in front of me in this tiny Catholic church on an island far from our homes on a Saturday night, I realized that God was at the helm, and that He had a plan. I also was nauseated, and could not concentrate for the remainder of Mass. I started to pray, "Lord, what do you want me to do? Please give me the words." Since no words or advice came to me, I started to grow more concerned, and more flustered.
When it came time for communion, I was even more preoccupied with trying to stay out of sight. Maybe it would work out perfectly that while she was returning from communion, I could be receiving, and we could just be like two parts on a circle which does not intersect or interact. Of course that is not how God operates. He wants us to interact, and he wants to us forgive, and he challenges us to the point of tears.
So as she returned from communion, I was shoulder to shoulder with her and next in line to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. I knew that it was my job to reach out first. That was my gift to God. In that moment, I touched her shoulder, smiled and said, "Hi Linda."
She smiled. I reached out to embrace her, and out of nowhere I kissed her cheek, warmly like a lost sister. This kiss was filled with love, and a longing to reconnect after so many years. Then I turned away to receive Jesus, and started crying. It wasn't a small cry. It turned into uncontrollable almost silent sobs. I had not even received the wine yet. As I stood in line to receive the blood of Christ the sobs became worse.
As I entered my pew, the sobs continued, and I realized I wasn't going to be able to control it as long as I was standing in Mass. I grabbed my husband, and kids and headed outside. I felt guilty for leaving mass early, but felt the need to flee even more. I needed to sort out in my head what had just transpired. I did not want a verbal encounter to undo what had just been done.
As I thought about it over the following several hours, I realized that I do not kiss anyone other than my husband, children, and immediate family. I never kiss friends. I usually hug friends that I have not seen for a long time, and sometimes new friends who I am welcoming into my personal circle. It is not in my nature to be very affectionate with people, unless I am very, very close with them. So, wow, why did the Holy Spirit compel me to kiss Linda?
My working theory at this time, is that the Holy Spirit had me do something that I would not have done of my own habit, or my own preference. The Holy Spirit gave me a sign that showed me that I was able to give a gesture of great love to someone who had harmed me and my family. I believe it was a sign of forgiveness, and closure. This happened at a time where we were both on vacation far from home, our guards were down, and we were both at mass. Now what did this mean to the other lady? I may never know. But I assume that she took it as a gesture of love and openness. Hopefully this Godincidence will help us both move forward on our faith journeys.
I have to laugh, because on the way home my husband and children were actually CHEERING for me. "Yay for Mommy! " They realized that what had transpired was a very difficult for me. But honestly, the only thing I really did was submit to the Holy Spirit. The rest was all God. Even the ability and desire to submit is a gift from God. And although I still do not fully comprehend what happened there and why, I am still grateful that God is working in my life to promote Mercy and Forgiveness.
Copyright 2013 Marya Jauregui
About the Author
Marya Hayes is mother to 3 active teens and is a military spouse. Her days consist of running the household and her mini business, and driving her teens daily all over the planet. Her favorite saints include St Francis de Sales, Saint Benedict, Padre Pio, and JPII. Marya enjoys cooking, hiking, and spending time with the family outdoors. Pray, hope, and don’t worry!