Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I Know I've Been Changed

That's an old Negro spiritual for those of you who don't know. The new skoolers can click here to check it out on YouTube while the old schoolers hum along with me:

I-I-I-I-Iiiiiiii know I been changed
I-I-I-I-Iiiiiiii know I been changed
Good Lardie, I-I-I-I-Iiiiiiii know I been changed
Angels in Heaven done signed my name!

Right about now, that's more than a song to me. That's my sho' nuff testimony! I know I've been changed because somebody did something to me recently, and if they had pulled that stunt 20 years ago, whew Jesus! All I can say is: I-I-I-I-Iiiiiiii know I been changed...

What had happened was my son brought a stack of mail to me and said, "Hey! You've got a letter from So-and-So." That was strange because the only time I talk to this particular person is when somebody dies. We don't call one another to chit chat, we're not on each others' Christmas card mailing list, my grandkids don't know their grandkids, etc. The few times we do communicate is via text messaging. I don't even think I have their email address.

So when the letter arrived, I naturally thought it strange. I hurried up and opened the envelope, expecting it to contain an invitation to a special celebration of some sort. When I commenced to reading that letter, my hair stood up like Don King!

This person ripped me a new one! Apparently they have been angry at me for taking their spouse's side in a divorce -- 30 YEARS AGO! I had no idea that they have been holding a grudge all this time. But check this out: when I first learned about the couples' decision to divorce (30 years ago), I tried to talk them out of it because our kids played together, we socialized together, and our lives intersected several times a week.

I tried without success to convince the couple to remain married. But it didn't take long for me to realize that all my reasons for wanting them to stay together were rooted in selfishness. So I did the only thing I could do at the time: I respected the couples' decision and backed on up out of their business. And now, 30 YEARS LATER, I find out that my silence was interpreted as taking the ex's side.

The funniest thing about this story is that about five or six years after the divorce, the other spouse admitted to me that their feelings were hurt because they had erroneously assumed that I took the other one's side -- but like I said above, I was trying to stay out of their business.

It amazes me now to know that they both walked away from their marriage upset with me about (1) something I didn't even do, and (2) something of which I was not even aware. That's another newsletter right there -- holding grudges against people who ain't thinking about you.

I had to read that letter several more times in disbelief because, in all honesty, over the last 30 years I haven't been thinking about either one of them! I called my sister Gail and read the letter to her. Essentially she suggested that I bless them and keep it moving. I-I-I-I-I-Iiiii know she been changed too!!!

Two weeks prior to the letter's arrival, I was in Daddy's kitchen and out of the blue my best friend named Something told me to remove that person's number from my cell phone. At first I didn't do it because I would have no way to contact them the next time somebody dies. But I did it anyway. And as I read through that letter one more time, all I could say was, "They'd better be glad Something told me to delete their number from my phone."

I-I-I-I-Iiiiiiii know I been changed... Yes indeed. Let me tell you the truth and shame that ol' snaggle toothed devil. Had this occurred 20 years ago and I didn't have their number, I would have hopped in my car, put the pedal to the metal, driven seven hours nonstop, knocked on their front door and cussed them out in 14 different languages. Good Lardie, I-I-I-I-Iiiiiiii know I been changed...

Wait a minute! That's not true. Twenty years ago my feelings would have been crushed. I probably would have been in tears for weeks. But glory be to God, I've been delivered from people. Hallelujah for really real! Thank You Jesus! Glory to Your Name! Hey, hey, hey! Hiyayaya! Nanabosha! Cookapotofgumbo!

By now you should be anxious to read what I did. Are you ready? Here goes: absolutely nothing. At least not at the time. I waited until I had total peace (which took a few days because initially I was hotter than fish grease). The cooling off process was accelerated after I learned that three other people had received the identical letter! Yes, you read that correctly. Obviously this person has waaaay too much time on their hands. That's some mess right there, huh. The only difference in the letters was the addressee on the outside of the envelope. At that point I realized none of this was about me ... this person just needed to vent and as most of us do when angry, we lash out at others instead of dealing with the true cause of our frustration (which is usually something we did or something we failed to do).

Oh, I forgot the best part -- after telling me off, they had the nerve to end the letter with these five words: "I will always love you." Yeah, right... A few weeks later my best friend named Something told me it was time to respond with five words of my own: "And I love you too." I signed it "Yogi", sealed the envelope, stuck on a forever stamp, left it on the front porch for the mail carrier, and decided to add this story to my next book entitled: "Kiss Me Where the Sun Don't Shine."

I-I-I-I-Iiiiiiii know I been changed... It has taken 53 long years for me to realize that I don't have to fight every battle -- not because I'm super saved, not because I'm sanctified, not because I'm filled with the holy ghost (and that with fire), not because I've been running for Jesus a long time and I'm not tired yet, and not because I'm striving to be all I can be. The reason I don't fight every battle is because every battle just ain't worth fighting.

I'm going back to my song:
If you don't believe that I've been redeemed ...
Angels in heaven done signed my name...
You need to follow me down to the Jordan stream ...
Angels in Heaven done signed my name...
I stepped in the water, and the water was cold ...
Angels in Heaven done signed my name...
It chilled my body but not my soul
...Angels in Heaven done signed my name...
I-I-I-I-Iiiiiiii know I been changed...
The angels in Heaven done signed my name!

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