Love your enemies. A modern parable.
Ingrid’s twin brother, Lukas, died last year. After he’d been separated from his wife, Cheryl, for a couple of months, he’d taken himself up to Queensland to do some scuba-diving, where the coroner said he’d had a heart attack in the water. Ingrid and Lukas had been close, inseparable in fact, since their mum had breast-fed them simultaneously, one under each arm. They talked endlessly as they walked to school together, even holding hands as youngsters and things didn’t change all that much in high school. They saw each other through the shared but different blushings of puberty, and the angst of first, and unrequited, loves. But when their schooling finished, and Lukas met Cheryl, things changed. Ingrid and Lukas still managed to chat most days, but after the wedding, Cheryl insisted that they not talk so much. Lukas said that Cheryl was just a bit “funny” about things, and that Ingrid shouldn’t worry about it. Ingrid didn’t think she was intruding, or stealing from the emotional energy Lukas needed to reserve for his wife, but after a couple of years, she was cut off. The one time she popped around, she came to regret it. Talking through the security door, seeing only the shadow of her twin through metal mesh, and being told that she’d have to leave, was too much to bear. So, she stopped trying. She bore the burden of grief as if he her twin brother had died … and then, he actually did … Sometime after the funeral, where Cheryl had avoided her, Ingrid got a phone call from a solicitor. He said that Lukas had nominated her as a beneficiary of some monies, but that his spouse was contesting the will. Ingrid said that she didn’t care about the money and that Cheryl could have it, but was told that there’d still be a process to go through anyway. On a Saturday morning, soon thereafter, Ingrid got up before dawn. She made an apple pie with a beautiful lattice top, went to the florist, then bought a card from the newsagent. She wrote in it of regret – of her ancient hopes – and even of her love for Cheryl. She told of the conversations she’d had with Lukas when the two of them had first met and how she’d shared in his joy and excitement when he was falling in love with her. She said that she didn’t blame Cheryl for anything, and that if there was anything, she herself needed to ask forgiveness for, that she most certainly would. Finally, she wrote of how she would formally declare that she believed Cheryl should be the sole beneficiary. Having sealed the envelope, Ingrid slowly sipped a cup of tea at a café, then drove to the house Cheryl now lived in alone. Speaking, predictably, through the screen door, the conversation was entirely one-way, with Ingrid saying her sorrowful, kind and gracious words, until Cheryl roared, “Can you just leave, please!” “Okay, but listen,” Ingrid said, “I’m signing it all over to you. I’m sorting it out with the lawyers.” There was only silence from the behind the darkened door. Ingrid laid down the pie and the flowers that she’d been cradling like a pair of breast-feeding babies, slipped the card in between them, then straightened up and said, “Goodbye.” After waiting half a beat, perchance an echo might return, she walked away – feeling empty but solid, dusty but damp – and wishing that both she, and Cheryl, might have a hand to hold, as they continued to walk the hard knocks of life. Could you say the Kingdom of Heaven is like that? Tom Hoffmann Pastor