Story by Joe Seay
It was a beautiful spring day for softball practice and our church team was excited about our first practice. I was the player-coach and shared their enthusiasm.
As the players arrived, I suggested that they start the practice session at the same position they played last season. Jack, who played second base last, year, didn’t show up so I assigned a new rookie to play his position.
We enjoyed throwing the ball around and then started a practice game. During the second inning of the practice game Jack showed up, walked over to second base and told the rookie that he would take over now. The rookie, a younger man excited about getting to play, responded that I had asked him to play second and refused to leave. Jack walked over to me and said, “I’ve played second base for three years. Are you replacing me?”
“No,” I explained, “but you were not here so I asked the new guy to play second for a while.”
“I’m here now and ready to take over,” he said in a determined manner.
As coach, I made the decision to leave the rookie at second for a while and told Jack he could resume his position a little later in the game. It seemed like a logical plan since Jack arrived late and I had already asked the rookie to play second. Jack’s feelings were hurt and he demanded that I put him in the game at second base immediately.
I assured him that I would put him at second base after a couple of innings, but he became angry and shouted at me, “Just kick me off the team because I’m a few minutes late!”
We glared at each other, then he walked off in a huff. “I’ve had it! I quit!” he shouted back at me.
Jack and I had been good friends for a long time. I was disappointed over this incident but I assumed it would blow over and be forgotten in a few days.
I was wrong. It didn’t. Jack avoided me at church. His ego was wounded.
But so was mine. It seemed to me that the fault was all on his side, not mine. After all, he was the one who started the trouble.
As the days went by, nothing changed. It seemed that our friendship was over. I could live with that if it was the way he wanted it. It’s his problem, I thought, not mine.
A few days later I read in my Bible that if we do not forgive people who offend us, God will not forgive us. The words pricked my conscience and I read it again. It read the same.
And I thought of Jack.
Reading further, I found that God expects us to forgive many, many times.
And I thought of Jack again.
The next Sunday at church I saw Jack coming down the hall towards me. He saw me at about the same time and looked away. Stepping directly in front of him, I said, “Jack, I want to apologize to you for the way I acted at softball practice. Will you forgive me?”
I offered him my hand.
He looked at me without a smile and ignored my hand.
People were watching us.
Jack still refused to respond.
Oh well, I tried. Now it’s us to him.
Then someone seemed to whisper in my ear, “How many times should we forgive others?”
And the answer was very clear: “Seventy times seven.”
I breathed a quick prayer and tried again. “Please forgive me, I want to be your friend again.”
Jack pushed my hand away…then smiled and gave me a big hug. He said, “It’s okay, Joe.”
We were friends again and it felt good. No hard feelings. No guilty conscience. Soon Jack was playing second base again. He was his old self.
Our team had a good record that year. It looked like we would make the playoffs.
A few days before the playoffs were to start, I received a call from Jack’s wife. He had a terrible headache and had to miss a game.
The next day they put him in the hospital for tests. The doctors discovered a major blood vessel had burst in his head. It was inoperable. Jack was bleeding to death.
I saw Jack one more time. He was laying in his hospital bed, dazed and weak. “Joe,” he said in a squeaky whisper, “hold my position for me. I’ll be there in time for the playoffs.”
I assured him that his position on the team was secure and we shared one last smile.
Our team didn’t make the playoffs that year, after all, but I know that Jack is playing on a much bigger and better team now. And I know he’s a great team player.
I’m so glad that Jack and I forgave each other. And that we didn’t wait too long. Jack was one of my best friends when he was alive and I thank God he was still one of my best friends when he died.
How about you? Are you holding any grudges?
Think about it!