by Dave Franco | August 14, 2019

Steve was driving, not saying a word. Penny was in the passenger seat going over the stupidity of saying yes to her girlfriend who begged her to come on this weekend trip—that was a blind date. 

So far, it was a disaster. Steve hadn’t said a word which made the four-hour drive excruciating. At the next stop, Penny took her girlfriend aside. “You either tell him he has to talk, or I’m pulling the plug on this little trip.”

Her friend did what she was told. Steve promised he would start talking. Only, once he started, he never stopped. It was then that something happened. Penny found herself charmed by Steve and falling for him.     

By trip’s end, they were in love and wanted to be together forever. Even the fact that he was just 21 and already a father didn’t matter, nor did his drug use. They got high every chance they could. If it means we can be together, I have no problem with it, she thought. Steve coursed through Penny’s veins, anyways. What was one more intoxicant? 

When they got married, the drugging continued—it was their thing. But when Penny got pregnant, she knew their ways had come to an end.

“Just until the baby comes,” Steve said, when Penny asked how much longer he was going to dope. 

“Why can’t you stop now?” she pressed. “I stopped. You can do it.”

“Just until the baby comes—I promise.”

When their son was born, Steve’s drug use did not waver, not one bit. Penny, unwilling to have a meth head in the house, began to push the issue. Steve didn’t like it. They fought bitterly and were coming apart. 

After years of fighting, Steve finally left for good. Penny had to come to terms with the fact that Steve had one true love: crystal meth. 

In the years to come, the hurt grew into hate. He had broken every promise he had made. He wasn’t a husband or a father, and he wasn’t a provider. He moved away and didn’t tell her where. He sent no child support. Penny was ticked.

Calls to the Child Support offices led her down a never-ending rabbit hole that lasted years. It only heightened her loathing.

Her best friends, Jackie, Julie, and Helen, would come by to console her. It soon turned into a verbal pile-on of Steve, the biggest loser they knew. “Let’s do this again,” Penny suggested, liking that it scratched where it itched.

And so they did, with the vitriol starting right where it left off. “We’re now the Steve Burke Haters Club,” Jackie said. 

“And I’m the president,” said Penny. 

Penny threw herself into running her successful business and buying up everything her heart desired. She was living the dream—no matter that she still didn’t feel happy or vindicated for all that she had been through. 

Seventeen years later, Penny was still the president of the Steve Burke Haters Club. Anger had become the drug that kept her going.

One day her dad called to say that he had cancer and time was short. She couldn’t bear the thought of being without him. Twenty-four months later, the cancer took him. She cried that day and didn’t stop for over a year. She lay inside her home with the curtains drawn, so depressed that she could barely get up. The radio was playing one day, and a song came on that she hadn’t heard before. It was Faith Hill’s I Surrender All.

Deeply moved, she surrendered everything to Jesus right then and there.

“You have to forgive Steve,” God said to her spirit. “It’s time you let go.”  

She ignored it. 

Penny, her son, and Steve’s daughter, Melissa, now 21, to whom she was mom, plus a few friends, including the vice president of the Steve Burke Haters club, Jackie, were vacationing in Lake Havasu as they did every year. Only this year, Melissa wouldn’t stop talking about her dad.  

“You should really talk to him,” Melissa said to Penny. “I think it would do both of you a lot of good.” 

“That’s ridiculous. Please don’t mention him again.”    

Melissa pulled out her phone and dialed him. 

“What are you doing?” Penny asked angrily. “You’re calling him just like that?”

“Yeah,” Melissa answered, “he just lives around the corner.”

Penny was stunned. 

Melissa began to speak. “Hi Dad, how’s it going…”

Immediately, Penny felt all that familiar anger pulsing through her as if it was the very first day. “Give me that phone,” she said as she yanked it from Melissa’s hand.

“Steve? This is Penny. I’ve got a few things I want to tell you. I’ll be right over.” Click. “Where does he live?”

“Way to go!” Jackie yelled. “This is going to be great. I wouldn’t want to be Steve Burke in a few minutes.”

“Darn right,” Penny said as they got in the car and she stepped on it. Arriving at his address, Penny opened and slammed the door, then walked with fury toward the house. Just then, Steve walked out, skinny, glassy-eyed, and high. “Steve?” she said.

He looked at her with fear.

“…will you forgive me?” Her eyes widened. What did I just say?

Steve looked at her completely confused. 

“Will you forgive me for how much I’ve hated you? I need you to forgive me like I know I need to forgive you.”

Still, it felt like she wasn’t saying it, like it was someone or something else pulsing through her. She turned to walk away and suddenly found that her legs began to buckle—the pent up hate gushing from her body rendered them useless. Then just as quickly, she felt light, as if being carried to the car. Once there, she got inside.

“What did you say?” Jackie wanted to know. 

Penny started up the car then burst into tears. “I forgave him and asked him to forgive me.”

“You did what? You can’t do that!” Jackie screamed at her. “After what he did to you? You’re not going to do that!”

Jackie yelled at Penny all the way to the patrol station near the California-Arizona border. All Penny could say in reply was, “This is not about me. This is all about Jesus. Jesus has changed me.”

“Where are you coming from?” said the border patrol agent.

“Hell,” said Penny.

“Where are you going?”

“To freedom.” 

    

POSTSCRIPT

As a favor to Penny, her pastor drove to Arizona and laid hands on Steve. His 37-year addiction to meth broke immediately. He gave his life to Christ. Penny and Steve dated then remarried 28 years after they first said their wedding vows. They attend Rock Church.

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