Steinbeck’s Opal

by Sarah Markley

crystal bridges

It was the 24th of last month and after all the Christmas gifts had been wrapped and placed under the tree, my husband and I finally went to bed, and as all good parents do, it was much later than we intended on Christmas Eve.

I turned over and faced him on the pillows.

“I’m still working through some anger,” I told him.

I’d seen an Internet scuffle earlier in the week between my husband and some people we used to be friends with from a previous church. They’d been less than kind to him in a public forum and I’d been surprised by how much it had hurt me: the words that were used, the animosity, the assumptions. Oh, the wretched assumptions.  Now it seemed as if the years of working with these people had been wasted.

He said, “I know you are. It’s okay.”

“I know it’s something I have to work through on my own. I can’t let this anger rule me, can I?”

“No, you can’t.”

What I had wanted to do was to somehow protect myself, ourselves, from that kind of hurt. What I wanted to do was stay angry because staying angry scratches a dreadful itch that needs scratched. What I wanted to do give back the words that had been given and never interact with anyone again.

“What to do? Maybe I should unfriend everyone on Facebook? Blacklist the whole group?”

“What good would that do, Sarah?”

“Nothing, I suppose,” I said. But it would sure make me feel better, I thought.

The simple fact is this: as much grace as I expect from others I must extend to others as well. And if I ever expect grace and love from them, then I should give it.

In fact, maybe I get the privilege of being the first to give it.

John Steinbeck wrote that “there are as many worlds as there are kinds of days, and as an opal changes its colors and its fire to match the nature of a day, so do I.”

Anger binds me. Regret binds me. And so does bitterness, and even hurt held on to for long periods of time. And I do not want to be bound.

I can change my heart and re-direct my emotions with grace just like Steinbeck’s opal. Fire, autumn, winter, ice. I can move with grace and with the heart of the Father and I do not have to be bound. His love unbinds and his grace frees, so no, I don’t have to be chained by bitterness.

We are fluid people. We are moveable and viscous and there isn’t room for a “black list” in that.

Does it still hurt? Absolutely. Are the ill-fated words of another excusable? Not at all.

But the only thing I want to be “bound” by in this new year is His grace.


15 Responses to “Steinbeck’s Opal”

  1. Marilyn Yocum January 3, 2014 at 6:22 am #

    “What I had wanted to do was to somehow protect myself…stay angry…never interact with anyone again.”

    So well put! But you’ve come to the only really good response, to extend grace and move forward. This is a choice. We can take it or leave it, and you have chosen well. It will be work, yes, but there are rewards in it. God is in it!

  2. Lynneata January 3, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    “But the only thing I want to be “bound” by in this new year is His grace.”


  3. Amber January 3, 2014 at 11:03 am #

    I’m a huge fan of not only defriending, but using the block feature. I think most of us remember our parents or telling children “well if they’re mean, don’t play with them!” I don’t advocate coldness, hostility, or being inhospitable, but I’m becoming more protective of my sanity and peace. I don’t think walking away from a situation is ungraceful if you do it..well, gracefully.

  4. Amy January 3, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    I needed to read this post today – thank you for sharing this part of your story. I’ve been holding on to a deeply hurtful exchange from must before the holidays and it has felt impossible to really let it go. The whole idea of hanging on to anger because it “scratches the itch” brought some clarity for me and has helped me untangle some of what has just been a mess in my heart.

    • Sarah Markley January 3, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

      yeah. anger does scratch an itch sometimes. i’m glad you read today, amy!! =)

  5. David Helms January 3, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    Nothing is quite as infuriating as those internet scuffles, eh? Because behind our internet screens we forget at the other end is a living breathing changing human being. Vitriol is unleashed in spades and those words land forever. On the internet grace is in short supply.

    But I’ve found outrage is exhausting. It turns me into a man I’ve never wanted to be. I want to be generous with that same grace that I swim in daily.

    Thanks for sharing your story. Anger creeps up quick.

    • Sarah Markley January 3, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

      Thank you David! And I agree – outrage is exhausting!

  6. Joni Gerking January 3, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    Dear Sarah,

    Your blog posts have been a regular part of my life for the past several years. I appreciate your honesty and what you have been going through has often resonated with me. Once again you have addressed an ongoing struggle.

    My husband and I were deeply hurt by publicly expressed words and actions from a few powerful people in our previous church. It has been almost a year since our move to a new area and our determination in Christ to let go of our hurt, anger, and bitterness. We began our grace blog this past November and it is a constant reminder of what you put so well, “The simple fact is this: as much grace as I expect from others I must extend to others as well. And if I ever expect grace and love from them, then I should give it.”

    God gives us His constant unstinting grace. I want that grace to flow freely from me, as well.

    Thank you very much for your post. I love the way you used Steinbeck’s Opal to illustrate your thoughts. Opals are among my favorite stones.

  7. Carol Vinson January 3, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    Yes, it’s so much easier to hold on to the anger and the hurt because it does “scratch an itch.” Thanks for the reminder to extend grace – the same grace we would want and often expect.

  8. Marnie January 3, 2014 at 8:36 pm #

    So well written and could have been snatched from my own heart. I agree anger/bitterness can creep up on you and hanging onto those feelings can be so exhausting, it’s too bad we can’t see straight into each other’s heart so we fully understand what it looks like to hurt each other!

  9. Danette January 4, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    I love your honesty. Grace….

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