My wife bought me a new shirt. It was an appealing blue, my favorite shirt color. I was going with a group to volunteer for four days in a prison. I would be away from my family for a whole week since it took a day to get there plus a day for orientation. That new shirt would help me get through the week.
When I got to the motel that would be my home away from home for a week, I carefully hung up my shirts. There was little room to hang anything else. The rod was right against the lavatory. My new shirt hung first in line. Seeing it was a constant reminder that my wife was home keeping the home fires going, while I tried to light some fires of hope in the inmates at the prison.
Of course I would not wear that shirt the first day. I did not want it languishing in the laundry bag for a week! It was about the third morning that I decided this was the day. This was when I would wear the gifted shirt. When I reached for the shirt, I noticed something peculiar. Lifting it off the hanger I took a closer look. It was covered with spots. Puzzled, I stared at it for some time then opened the faucet and held a small area under the water, vigorously rubbing the defiled spot. No difference. I rubbed it some more; still no difference.
I stared at that shirt for quite some time. The spots were lighter in color than the rest of the shirt. It took a while, but eventually the proverbial light went on in my brain. I thought I knew the answer. I stared at the shirt again. My blood pressure went up. My frustration level went alarmingly high. I realized two things about my precious shirt: it was ruined, and I could do nothing about it.
A little later when I went out of my room I saw a cleaning lady a few doors down. Walking up to her I bid her good morning and then asked if she had cleaned my room the day before. She acknowledged that she had. I then asked if she uses cleaning agents that might contain bleach. She affirmed that she does.
I asked her to check out something in my room. I turned, and she followed. I left the door open and walked to my shirt. When I showed her the shirt, she became pale. She knew immediately what she had done. When she cleaned the sink, she had splattered the cleaner on my shirt, thus bleaching it for life. The woman clutched her throat and looked at me with sad eyes, apologizing mournfully. I pitied that poor, apologizing woman. She did not let up. I began to feel like the perpetrator in a crime.
I quickly assured the lady that I completely forgave her and that I was not going to tell her superiors about it. She looked at me with gratitude, but continued apologizing. I told her that I had been forgiven many times and I forgave her as well. I had to do this a number of times before she realized that I really did forgive her. She left the room still apologizing.
Later as I left the room, I walked up to her and told her that God had unconditionally forgiven me of terrible sins, so I wanted to extend the same to her. She then began to share her troubles. Her mother was terminally ill, her brother had to go to prison, and she was struggling with her children. She poured out her heart.
As I listened to her, I realized that my precious shirt was sacrificed so I could encourage this dear lady. After she poured out her struggles, I tried to encourage her. I assured her that there is always something to hope for and that her situation would get better. Slowly her face brightened and hope shone in her eyes. When I left her, she felt better and so did I.
I took that bleached shirt home with me. It was a trophy from God. My wife gave it out of love, God used it to minister love, and I sacrificed it with joy!