When God made us, He gave us the incredible ability to make associations. We all have triggers that transport us from the here and now to past experiences. Maybe the smell of chocolate chip cookies takes you back to your grandma’s kitchen when you were a kid. Perhaps a certain song takes you back to prom night, 1988.

This weekend, I experienced the magic that is association. But it wasn’t good. It was terrible actually. Starting in middle school, I had an ongoing feud with a girl that lasted all throughout high school. I’m not the kind of person who thrives on drama or seeks to contend. I find senseless conflict, well, senseless. It drives me crazy. As much as I tried to put water under the bridge with this person, she refused to let it go.

Finally, graduation cut my ties with her. I could finally bury those feelings. No more anger. No more jealousy. No more competing.

Until I saw her the other day. By some miracle, I didn’t run into this girl for eight glorious years. But there she sat, behind the wheel of the car blazing past mine. The same car that had been riding my bumper for the last five minutes. And the same car that would cut me off at the intersection ahead.

I was immediately angry. All those ugly feelings I thought I’d buried rushed back and took over my mind. She would drive like a jerk. Hasn’t changed a bit. What’s her problem anyway?

And I thought I was more mature than that. Ha.

Time and space may hide your symptoms of unforgiveness, but only intentional forgiveness can take them away for good. I thought it was done and over with, but I never once asked God to help me weed those things out of my heart. I didn’t have to face her anymore so I didn’t think I had to face the issue. But it sprung up healthy and strong in a split second. And it wasn’t pretty. Just ask my husband who had to endure ugly me that day.

Who do you avoid? Who takes you back to an ugly place in your heart? Don’t be naive and think you’ve overcome those feelings when you’ve just swept them under the rug. Let God help you clean it all out or it’ll pop up years later and make you look (and feel) like a jerk.

*For more on the intense ramifications of unforgiveness, check out Have the Funeral by James MacDonald with your small group.