One of my favorite stories seems to bear repeating today.
A lady became quite angry with her pastor. I don’t remember what it was about at the time, but she was quite angry and felt equally as justified in her anger. In her anger, she started a vicious rumor about the man that quickly spread throughout their small community. Strong division sprung up as various members of the church and community began to choose sides and form camps. People left the church, families were divided, other rumors seized the opportunity to spread. Worship became cold as church member’s anger became hotter. The pastor even called for a vote of confidence to see whether the congregation wanted him to remain as their shepherd.
As these things usually go, the lady got over her anger. The matter wasn’t really that important anyway and she just wanted it to stop. However, it wouldn’t stop. Even though her anger had abated; those who had picked up her offense continued to bicker and squabble. The entire fabric of the community was at risk. Eventually, she went to the pastor’s study to seek his forgiveness. She explained that she had come to realize that in her anger she had sinned and she desperately wanted the pastor to forgive her. Through hot tears she cried out to the pastor for absolution.
Pastor said to her, “Of course I forgive you. I care about you deeply and I don’t want anything to stand in the way of your relationship to the Lord, certainly not my bitterness. However, as a favor I would like you to do something for me.”
“Anything,” she said to her pastor, “I just want to make this right!”
The pastor knew that the woman kept chickens at her house. He said, “I want you to go to your house and take one of your hens and kill it. Do whatever you want with the chicken; serve it to your husband for dinner, give it to a neighbor, but make sure that it goes to good use.”
“However,” he continued, “the feathers are mine. As you prepare to cook the chicken, I want you to take all the feathers and put them in a paper bag. After supper, I want you come to my office and bring the bag of feathers along with you. Don’t drive your car, but walk to my office and as you come to each intersection I want you to stop, reach into the bag and take a handful of feathers and toss them up into the air. Do this until all the feathers are gone and then come to my office.”
The woman thought this to be a very strange request, but did as the pastor asked. When she arrived back at the pastor’s study, empty bag in hand, she said to the pastor, “I have done as you asked. I tossed feathers into the air at each intersection all the way from my home to your office.”
The pastor replied, “Thank you very much. I appreciate your willingness to do me this favor, and your diligence in completing the task. I have only one more favor to ask of you.”
“What do you want me to do now pastor?” she asked.
“I want you to retrace your steps and as you do, please gather all of the feathers you have tossed into the wind and put them back in the bag.”
“What!?” cried the amazed woman. “That’s impossible! I could never gather all of those feathers up, because clearly now the wind has scattered them all over the county. What you ask cannot be done.”
“You are correct,” replied her wise pastor. “And neither, can you gather in all of the damage you have done by this one false story. It has been scattered by a wind that you cannot control, and captured by ears that you do not know, and passed on to others you have never met.”
“I forgive you,” he went on, “but, you can never undo the damage your words have done.”