I was reading the prayer book this morning that my spiritual director Jerry gave me and came across the following excerpt from Hugh Prather’s The Quiet Answer, which might be helpful for people struggling with forgiveness and reconciliation:

I release you from my hurt feelings. I free you from my reading of your motives. I withdraw my “justified” outrage and leave you clean and happy in my mind. In place of censure, I offer you all of God’s deep contentment and peace. I will perceive you singing, with a soft smile of freedom and a glow of rich satisfaction. I bless you brother. You are a shining member of the Family of God, and I will wait patiently for this truthful vision to come honestly to my mind.

If you want the book, you can buy it Used, with carbon-neutral shipping, for $3.98 at Better World Books.

May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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Reconciliation

March 21, 2009

I once thought of reconciliation the same way I thought of a broken bone healing.

My eighth grade year, I played cornerback, and my job on a sweep was to “scrape the alley” to the right of the tight end, get one step ahead of the blocker, and make the tackle. During practice one day, the running back was trying to block me, and he stepped on my left leg.

Pop!

I found out later that my tibia and fibula had snapped about ten inches above my ankle. Over the next twelve weeks, casts of different sizes, colors, and materials came and went. When the last one finally came off, a knot had formed over the break. “Overcalcification,” the nurse explained. “As the bone knit itself back together, it overcompensated.” She assured me that over time my body would absorb the extra calcium, the knot would disappear, and my leg should be even stronger than before.

I thought that relationships should heal the same way—stronger than before. After both parties come together with broken hearts, take responsibility for the hurts they inflicted, and ask forgiveness of one another, trust fills the rift, and the sweetness, intimacy, and laughter return. Agility and grace return. That relationship no longer walks with a limp.

This depth of wholistic, joy-infused healing certainly does occur in some relationships. I have experienced it. I thought that it was the highest expression of faithfulness and obedience, and thus pursued it with the same fervency that I tried to muster in every aspect of my life. After all, Jesus calls us to be peacemakers. Making peace means becoming a reconciling people. Reconciliation is what we do. I expected all my injured relationships to be stronger than before.

However, what happens when the other person never apologizes? Never admits fault? Denies any wrongdoing and steamrolls one’s vulnerability?

What happens if the person shows no interest in reconciliation and multiplies the offense with more insensitivity and selfishness?

We cannot wait to forgive and move forward into the fullness of life in Christ until the people who hurt us have asked for forgiveness. Sometimes, reconciliation comes with no sweet reunion or tears of relief and gratitude mingled with the other person’s. Sometimes, reconciliation is being cordial, feeling a sincere desire for the other person’s well-being and the relinquishment of our own bitterness and resentment.

Certain relationships never return to us. They walk with a limp out of our lives. God calls us to acknowledge our part in the wounding and breaking and to confess to Him, and if possible, the other person, our sins against that person. He never says, “There’s something wrong with you and your faith if you’re not able to fix every relationship.”

What a relief that He calls me to participate in reconciliation as far as I have the power to do so. He knows I have no power to suck the venom from another person’s heart. 

Praise God for the toppling of impossible standards and the graceful letting go of broken relationships.

I am his child, not his handyman.