When I was young and at primary school I was a "Tom-Boy", wanting to be active, out and about as much as possible and looking for company to play with.
My only sibling is my sister who is 10 years older than me so I didn't have her to play with and sometimes there were not too many other kids around.
I really loved the opportunity to play with the boy who would come to visit his grandparents across the street and the girls from the surrounding streets and stay out as long as possible.
But there were often times when there was no-one around to play with so I found a friend next door.
This friend was often around at the front of the house and he was very easy to chat to so I could go see him a few times a day.
His name was Tim and he was a black, scotty dog.
I used to go and sit on the front step of the house next door and pet him and cuddle him and chat.
He was so familiar with our family that there was never any barking at us just the tail wagging and little jumps of excitement when he thought any of us were going to have time to play with him.
|photo credit - Pixabay|
My parents were fine with me playing with Tim and knew that I was often on that front step.
I liked dogs and had wanted our family to have a dog as a pet but my sister did not like dogs so I had to be content with Tim next door.
Of course I took Tim for granted and thought he would always be there just when I would feel like going in through the front gate to play with him.
I was sure that he would always be happy to see me, ready to play
and I would never be "not welcome".
Then there was that one day when I went through that gate and took the two or three steps to the front door to find Tim was lying there quietly not jumping up or wagging his tail at me. I sat down beside him and put my arm around him but instead of getting the usual happy welcome I felt the pain shoot up my arm as his teeth clamped onto it.
I screamed, jumped up and ran out through that next door gate with Tim hanging from my arm but he let go before I got to our own gate.
I was sore, bleeding (although not too bad because he was an older dog and his teeth apparently weren't too sharp) and so confused that Tim had bitten me.
If I was looking for sympathy I had come to the wrong place because immediately I was questioned by my mother on what had I done to antagonise the poor dog - see how everyone loved him!
Well my arm was bathed and bandaged and I can't remember if I was told to stay inside for a while but I do remember that before long I was back sitting playing with Tim.
The neighbours talked with my parents and were concerned about what had happened and what my parents wanted them to do about Tim. The result was that none of us wanted anything to happen to him because we all knew the situation had been my own fault. Who would be so silly as to cuddle a dog that was asleep and wake him suddenly and frighten him especially when in the past few months some teenagers had often been teasing and at times kicking at him through the gate as they walked down our street.
I had not known that Tim, my usually happy friend, had become afraid of these teenagers and hence probably startled by me and reacted out of sudden fear.
Yes it wasn't long before I was back playing with Tim, he was still my friend and I forgave him for biting me but I think there was always just not exactly the same trust there as before.
Over the years I have seen friendships ruined over a hasty word, a sudden grumpiness, a searing hurt, a teasing jibe, when people just got so friendly and comfortable that they stopped thinking of situations from the other person's point of view. Times when people got so careless and thought they could do or say anything just because they thought they were with friends.
Even if the friendships are not ruined they are marred in some way by lack of trust thereafter.
Sometimes we have been the ones to do the hurting and sometimes we are the ones who have been hurt but either way we need to try to consider how the other person felt, what may have been happening to them recently that we did not know about, who had been unkind to them, what had they heard recently, because something had caused a difference on that occasion.
There are two people in a friendship and also two feelings in that friendship and we need to remember to be considerate and kind, honouring the friendship and extending grace to each other in all circumstances.
It may not always come easy but oh it would be great if I could forgive others today as quickly as I forgave Tim.
It is not impossible to do.
As children of God we have the capability of forgiving because we have been forgiven and we have the greatest example of perfect forgiveness in Jesus.
What about a letter, a phone call, a little chat?
The practical step needs to be taken to apologise and forgive.
And we can do it!