April 26, 2019

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Alleluia! Will you accept Jesus’ precious gift of love and salvation?

Debra Tomaselli “Why are you so worried,” Jan asked. “Don’t you believe in Jesus?”

I cringed. Why had I started this conversation? Of course, I believed in Jesus. She knew, even though I wasn’t active in my Church at the time, I was raised Catholic.

Clearly, Jan didn’t understand my pain. She’d never lost anyone close to her. Like everyone else I knew, she just didn’t get it.

At the tender age of 33, my beloved younger brother died in my arms. Almost as quickly as we received the diagnosis, kidney failure claimed Jim’s life. His death rocked my world.

With time, I was consumed by regrets. Had I known Jim was going to die suddenly, I would have handled things differently. I would have done so much more for him.

I would have given him a bigger birthday present. I would have given him more cash. I would have bought him another shirt; he needed another shirt. I would have grocery shopped for him Tuesday when I thought I was too busy, and not chastised him for spending his last dollar feeding a stray dog when he didn’t have food for himself.

Long after his death, I was drowning in guilt.

Worse yet, I kept these feelings to myself. I was afraid to voice them, convinced my family and friends would condemn my shortcomings. I knew what they’d say: “Yeah, you are a loser. You didn’t do enough. You should have handled that differently.”

The self-reproach grew, convincing me that everything I did and everything I failed to do was wrong—and unforgiveable.

Then one day, I visited a longtime friend. Jan was a faith-filled, loving person with a genuine smile and a little boy around my daughter’s age. We were sitting at the pool, watching the kids swim when she picked up on the fact that I was feeling guilty about Jim’s death.

“You were there when he died,” she said. “Do you really think you could have done something more?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “But he needed so much,” I said. “I could have helped him more. Maybe I did a lot, but it just wasn’t enough. … It will never be enough.”

She offered consolation, but I refused. She was willing to listen, but I didn’t want to talk. She mentioned the forgiveness of Jesus, but I became annoyed.

Finally, she sat back, folded her arms, and stared at me.

“You remind me of a play I saw at church,” she finally said.

I cocked my head.

“There were two people. One had a beautifully wrapped present topped with a colorful bow. She was trying to give it to the other person,” Jan said. “That person wouldn’t look at her. That person turned away and crossed her arms. That person was angry, shaking her head, refusing to accept the gift.”

Jan paused. “You’re that person,” she said.

“In the play, that gift represented the forgiveness of God,” Jan said. “That gift is the love of Jesus. It’s a free gift being offered to us.”

Our eyes met.

“All you have to do is accept it,” she said.

(Debra Tomaselli writes from Altamonte Springs, Florida. She can be reached at dtomaselli@cfl.rr.com.)

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