The Celestial Chronicles (4)
Stories imagining Christian service from Heaven’s point of view
Remember to forget
Mrs Sally Tattle leaned back comfortably in the leather armchair. She and Claire Newby had bagged the coveted corner table in the new chic café in the middleclass market town of Muckraking. Everyone said the new café was chic, so Sally said it was too; she didn’t exactly know what ‘chic’ meant and secretly didn’t think the café was any smarter than the old coffee shop down the road. But she liked to keep up with the current trend.
“So, how are you settling in?” Sally began cutting up the portion of Victoria Sponge cake she had purchased with her coffee, silently horrified at the smallness of the slice – and how much it had cost. She was also uncomfortable because she was learning that Claire was one of those frustratingly lean women who didn’t overindulge. Somehow, that took some of the enjoyment away from her own indulgence.
Claire took small sips from the herbal tea she had chosen. “Fine, thank you, I think we’ll be very happy here. Have you lived in Muckraking long?”
Sally nodded eagerly. “About forty years! I think we know just about all there is to know about the place!”
Claire offered a feeble smile. Sally’s reputation of knowing – and repeating – all there was to know had preceded her, and Claire didn’t like gossip. “I hear you’re one of the original church members here.” An innocuous comment, she thought.
Another eager nod. “One of the founder members. And Len has been an elder for most of that time too!”
“It’s a very welcoming church…”
“Of course! And we’ll have you out to us for a meal as soon as we can arrange a time. Life is such a whirl just now! You’ll have been to the Smyths already, I suppose?”
Claire took another sip of her tea. “Yes. Caroline has become a great friend already! She and I plan to…”
Sally hastily swallowed the last bite of her too-small cake and interrupted. “I’m very glad to hear that! She’s come a long way since the days of…” She hmphed a large sigh. “Well, things weren’t always going so well for the Smyths, put it that way!”
Consternation filled Claire’s eyes. She had been warned that Sally would likely want to spill the beans on all the unpalatable details of sins past and present, and even speculate on future ones not yet committed. “I’m sure the same can be said of all of us at one time or another,” she said softly. “Which one of us is perfect?”
Sally grimaced. “Not like this, I can assure you! It’s a wonder Caroline and her husband are still married – and that they’re still church members! But then, we all must learn to forgive, mustn’t we? The church has been wonderfully gracious to them!”
“As God is gracious to us.” Claire seized on this concession.
“Indeed. It was an affair, you know. Adultery!” The large lady leaned forward in her chair. “Nearly ruined two marriages in the church! All Caroline’s fault – as she tells it, mark you – it rocked the church and caused poor Len and the other elders many sleepless nights, I can tell you!”
Claire rubbed her temples as if she had a headache coming. “It must have been a long time ago…” She felt helpless to stem the onslaught of things she didn’t want to know about her new friend.
“Fifteen years ago. It’s wonderful that the marriage has lasted so long!” Sally made it sound anything but wonderful.
“Surely it’s better to forget these things, to ‘remember them no more’ as the Bible says God Himself does…”
Sally sniffed. “If you’re going to be friends with Caroline, it’s just as well you know!” She was privately deciding that Claire didn’t make a particularly enjoyable coffee companion; she wasn’t half as interested in Sally’s disclosures as she ought to be; it wasn’t as if it wasn’t true – which meant it wasn’t gossip, was it?
Claire would not be one of her inner circle in the church.
Barak was a Prayer Sentinel in the Courts of Heaven, one of the angels responsible for recording and processing individual prayer requests from the saints in Muckraking. It hadn’t proved a particularly busy position – there were often moments when real, effective prayer proved elusive and he could just wait and observe.
Although Claire Newby didn’t know it, she was the answer to Caroline Smyth’s prayers. Caroline had long prayed for a spiritual friend – someone to encourage and support her, someone who wouldn’t remember the sins of the past in all their ugly detail: sins she had long since bitterly repented of. Thankfully, Claire wasn’t distracted by this sordid tale of Caroline’s past. The Master knew who He was sending to support Caroline: Claire understood what Sally did not – that when God forgave sin, it was blotted out forever. Even as she drove home from the café, Claire was praying for Caroline, for their friendship, and even for Sally Tattle too.
Listening to Sally telling that story of past sins was a strange experience for a celestial being like Barak. It was like listening to fiction. In the Records of Heaven, there was no trace of these sins; they were blotted out for all eternity, never remembered again by any being in the Courts of Heaven.
Only on Earth did erring people dare to remember – what they ought to forget.