It’s a Bitter Winter, Chapter 5

“Oh, you poor lad!” soothed Mrs Murgatroyd, “You’ve done all you can to say sorry to Alison for hitting her. But you can’t make her forgive you.”

After a sleepless night, Lee had walked the two miles to her home and – as Alison had wrathfully suggested – had presented his peace offering to this kind old lady. They were now sitting outside on the tiny patio at the back of her bungalow. Utterly heartbroken, Lee had poured out his tale of woe. Now, as he sobbed, Lee felt comforted by the peace that she radiated. Little else was said, but the tension was relieved as the scissors in her knarled fingers snipped at the flower stems. At last, she spoke again.

“Lee, you need to say sorry to God, too. It’s like you’re carrying a heavy burden on your shoulders, and he doesn’t mean you to be weighed down with it. I know he wants to help you deal with the other weights you’re carrying, too. I’ll tell you what, it’s Good Friday tomorrow. My chapel has an invitation service at 2 o’clock. It’s a long time since I’ve been well enough to go myself, but I’ll get there in a taxi somehow if you’ll join me. You’ll find out how Jesus dealt with all the things we feel guilty about.”

Until recently, Lee would have poo-poo’d any such idea. But he now felt he’d like to meet this extraordinary teacher, leader and healer who had stepped out from the pages of Mark’s Gospel. Lee wondered how Jesus felt about being ripped up.

Mrs Murgatroyd thoughtfully re-wrapped the bouquet, all beautifully cut to size. With a wink, she handed it back to him, along with two little cards (‘just in case you should lose one’) with the service details. Somehow, she seemed ten years younger than when they’d first met, as if their friendship had awakened something in her. 


As she listened to Alison’s complaint about her violent husband, Amanda Jefferies licked her lips as she relished the thought of squashing another male ego in the divorce courts.

“So, how often does this happen…oh, I see…So, how much responsibility does he take in the home…oh yes? How would you describe his relationship with the children…And in the bedroom? ”

Twenty minutes later, Ms Jefferies turned to Alison and said, “Look, I earn a good living helping people get divorced. But, are you really sure you want to separate?”

Whereupon Alison blurted out, “I don’t know what I want. Except I wish he’d listen to me!” Ms Jefferies smiled, closed the interview and invited her to get back in touch if she wanted to proceed after all.

That evening, Alison and her parents had a long talk. They’d noticed how much happier Lee had been since he’d volunteered at the food bank. Maybe he had a point in wanting to change his job? It sounded as if he and Alison needed to talk honestly about him earning some money. She was feeling the pinch much more than he, and he needed to understand how she felt. Perhaps he could take a job to tide them over whilst he looked for something vocational? 


Sitting in the little chapel, Lee listened intently. Now he understood, for the first time, how the Jesus from his Mark’s Gospel had died on a cross to pay the penalty for his ‘sin’. He didn’t need anyone to tell him what ‘sin’ meant. And then came the song that pierced him like an arrow. The words of the second verse were:

Come and weep, come and mourn
For your sin that pierced him there
So much deeper than the wounds of thorn and nail
All our pride, all our greed
All our fallenness and shame
And the Lord has laid the punishment on him.

(from Graham Kendrick, ‘Come and See’)

As Lee’s tears flowed, he felt an arm gently touch his. Alison had called in at the flat and been touched by the flowers carefully arranged in their vase. Without thinking, Lee had left the spare invitation card on the table. Mrs Murgatroyd looked at them both and beamed.  


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