In part one, Fran had started her week off very poorly. Fran is a single mom, having been widowed at a very early age when her husband was killed in an accident. She is raising her two school-age children alone and at the same time holding down a busy job in marketing.
In telling these stories, you’ll notice that Jesus speaks to Fran. Now, we know that Jesus does not speak to us in audible words, as in these stories, but I use this to illustrate that Jesus is with us at all times because his Spirit dwells with every truly born-again person, and he does speak to us through his Word and his Spirit. So, when you hear dialog spoken by Jesus, be assured it is all true to principles in Scripture, and it is used to help us learn how to practice the presence of Jesus in our everyday lives.
On this particular Monday morning, Fran felt very unmotivated and started her day late. Then she had heated words with her children in getting them off. As Jesus rode with her to the job, she was very uncomfortable having him there because his presence convicted her of her harsh tongue. And then Jesus asked her about her argument with her mother the previous evening.
Fran’s mother was unhappy because Fran was beginning to date a man who was not a believer. Fran had accused her of meddling and hung up rather abruptly. Then upon arriving at work, she had very harsh words with a co-worker who phoned to say he couldn’t make a deadline. And this was a co-worker she had been talking with lately and sharing her faith in Jesus.
After all this, Fran breaks into tears, shuts her office door, and admits she has blown it. She asks Jesus to please forgive her. And of course, he does.
She shakes her head. “You always forgive me so readily, and it seems I have to ask for forgiveness a lot. I’ve hurt you; I know I have. I really am sorry. Please forgive me.”
“No need to ask again; you’re forgiven,” Jesus replies. “But it might be helpful to trace the root cause of all these angry outbursts and ask yourself how it happened. Can you remember when they began?”
“They began a couple of weeks ago, I think, about the time I started seeing…” The truth comes out slowly and painfully for Fran. “I knew it wasn’t a good idea for me to date Bob. He’s not a Christian; I know that, and yet he’s very sophisticated and successful. I guess I was just flattered by his attention, and it felt good to be treated so nicely,” Fran explains.
“But you knew in your spirit that I was not pleased with this relationship, is that right, Fran?” Jesus probes further.
“Yes, I knew. But I tried to ignore it; stay busy; rationalize it away. That’s why I was so angry at mother; she forced me to face it,” Fran explains to Jesus.
“Disobedience is so insidious, Fran. It affects everything else, like a cancer that spreads lightning fast. Do you see what this one area of disobedience has done, even in two short weeks? Your fellowship with me has been broken, and you’ve hurt quite a few people as well.” Jesus spells it out for her.
“Yeah, I know,” Fran says. “The thing is, although I was doing what I wanted to do, I was pretty miserable on the inside. I was determined to do it, but it didn’t really bring me any happiness or great thrill like I thought it would.”
“Well,” Jesus replies, “that’s because you have an enemy who is a great liar, and he will always lead you to believe that doing it your way will make you happy and doing it my way will make you miserable. He handed you one of his most common lies, and you fell for it. Lots of people have. It’s okay; you’re forgiven,” Jesus reassures her.
“I know you forgive me, but how do I undo all this damage I’ve done to others?” Fran asks with alarm. “I’ve really blown it. I mean, the way I talked to Al just now—and just last week I was sharing something about the Lord with him. He’ll never listen to me again. I’ve ruined my testimony,” Fran panics as she thinks about it.
“Well, you can’t un-speak the words you spoke, but you can try to heal the wounds,” Jesus advises her.
“You mean apologize? But what will I say? I feel so stupid!” Fran says.
“I know, but it’s very important for you to apologize. Why don’t you begin with your mother,” Jesus suggests.
“Okay, I’ll call her,” Fran responds as she dials the number. “Hello, Mom, this is Fran. Listen, I can’t talk long now because I’m at work, but I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am for what I said to you last night and for raising my voice. That was wrong of me, and I really am sorry,” Fran apologizes.
“Well, I think you did have a right to say what you did. After all, you are my mother, and you’re right about Bob. I shouldn’t be seeing him, and I won’t anymore. My motives were all wrong and it could be a dangerous relationship. But I’m really sorry about how I talked to you. Will you forgive me?” Fran asks.
“Thanks, Mom. I’ll talk to you tonight. Have a good day.” As she puts down the phone, it feels like one mountain was taken off of one shoulder.
She smiles. “Thanks, Lord, for helping me get to this point. I know I’ve been stubborn, but thanks for being patient with me.” Before he can say anything, the phone is ringing.
Fran answers and discovers Bob is on the other end. “Oh, hi Bob. Yeah, kinda busy; what’s up?” she asks, feeling a little nervous.
“Friday night? No, I’m afraid I can’t make it Friday night, Bob. I already have a commitment at church.” She pauses for his reply. “Actually, Bob, that’s not the only reason I can’t see you Friday. After some careful thought, I’ve concluded that it would be wise to end this relationship before it goes any further. We can’t discuss this now, but quite simply, there are some basic things we don’t have in common that are extremely important to me. Let’s just say, it’s not a good fit.”
As she hangs up the phone, she says to Jesus, “He didn’t understand, and I didn’t think this was the place to explain. But if he calls me at home, I’ll try to tell him about my commitment to you. You know, Lord, that’s kinda hard to explain without sounding like a goodie-two-shoes. Guess if I’d never let the relationship start I wouldn’t be in this spot right now, would I?” Fran verbalizes what she imagines Jesus is thinking.
“I must remember to call Karen and tell her I’ll be there Friday night, but right now, I’m going down to Al’s office to apologize. Will you go with me, Lord?” Fran asks, knowing the answer will be yes.
They find he’s in a conference with one of his people, talking about Fran’s job. He looks up at her and says, “Look, Fran, I’m doing the best I can do. Don’t start buggin’ me again; we’re gonna’ work overtime tonight…”
Fran interrupts him. “Al, please, I didn’t come to bug you, I came to apologize. I was way out of line talking to you like I did. I know they’ve cut back your headcount and you’re under tight budget restraints. It’s not your fault. I just took my frustrations out on you. I’m really sorry, Al.”
Al’s mouth is hanging open. He dismisses his employee and invites Fran to take a seat. “Well, at least you apologized. Everyone else is jumping down my throat, but you’re the only one to apologize. Thanks, Fran.”
“Well, I just couldn’t let it go that way, Al. I knew I was wrong. You know, last week I was telling you about my commitment to Jesus. Frankly, it was Jesus that caused me to see how badly I behaved, and it’s because of him that I came to apologize. One of the great things about being a Christian is that when we blow it badly, as I did with you, Jesus gives us the strength to see ourselves, he forgives us when we ask, and then helps us to make restitution,” Fran tries to explain it to Al.
“Well, whatever, I appreciate it. I will try to meet the deadline, Fran. I promise you, I’ll try,” he says.
“That’s all I ask. Keep me informed and I’ll stay in touch with the client,” Fran smiles at Al as she gets up to leave.
“You’re different, Fran, even when you yell at me,” Al says with tongue in cheek.
As they walk back to her office, Fran says, “Jesus, you even use failure to bring glory to your name, don’t you? There you’ve gone and turned my ashes into beauty again. Thank you, Lord.”
“That’s my specialty, Fran, taking brokenness and failure and turning it around. I’ve been doing it for a long time, you know,” he says.
“Yes, and I’m sure you’ll have to do it again for me someday. But I hope I can get better at not causing you grief like this. I don’t want to be a perpetual problem for you,” Fran says.
“You’re getting better. Failure is not the end of the road. If you’ll just keep bringing the failure to me, not running away from me, your failures can become new beginnings. Who knows what will come of this whole episode?” Jesus says.
Yes, who knows.
Have you blown it lately? Do you feel as though your testimony for Christ has been irreparably damaged?
I remember one particular time when I wanted to run away and never go back to my job because I had made such a fool of myself the day before and had behaved so un-Christlike. I was especially ashamed because of a co-worker who had been talking with me a lot about trusting God and living for the Lord. I had been encouraging him and could see that he was growing in his faith. And now, right in his presence, he had seen me act like Mary, not like Jesus. I figured he would never listen to me again and this would set him back a long way.
But the Holy Spirit urged me to go right back and talk with my co-worker/friend as soon as possible and explain how I had failed, but failure is not the end of the road. So, I did that. I apologized to him and told him how badly I felt about my behavior. But I went on to say that God had forgiven me and I hoped he would, too.
He was very touched as I talked with him, and he opened up to me to say that this was one area in his life where he had great difficulty—dealing with failure. He was so relieved to know that failure is not the end of the road, and to see in action that God restores us even when we stumble and fall.
I want to encourage you today to remember that you’ve never blown it so badly to be beyond God’s help. He can salvage you, no matter what. Just go to him with a contrite heart and a willingness to obey and change, and you’ll find your burden is lifted and you can recover from failure.