It was an uncomfortable confrontation. The kind where you hope the hammering of your heart isn’t visible through your shirt. My friend and I stood face to face, disagreeing about how to handle a situation between our children at school. It had been a fairly serious issue, and I had spoken to a teacher about it before discussing it with my friend. After a second uncomfortable exchange by phone, we both owned up to our part of the dispute and apologized. After that, our friendship began to feel solid again. These days, it’s better than ever.
The oldest of eight children, my mum can tell quite a few stories of sibling hijinks, mischief and rivalries. She became the appointed babysitter and had to learn quickly to hold her own among her energetic charges. To her siblings, she was simply bossy. On occasion, those relational contexts of long ago rise to the surface, so with any advice she offers her beloved siblings today, my mum reminds them the only life she’s in charge of is her own.
The Smiths (not their real name) and I hadn’t talked for years. The last time we interacted there was much frustration and anger on both sides. Mr. Smith called once or twice, but I wasn’t ready to reconcile. But as God began to mend my wounded heart, I had peace about working on the relationship. Healing came when I went on a prayer retreat during which I talked to Jesus, read the Scriptures and worshipped through songs. On the last day, I decided that if the Smiths called, I would agree to meet with them.
I found myself in a tense, combustible situation—standing between two groups of angry people who were nose to nose, boiling over with rage and hatred. One group spewed vile, dehumanizing words at the other; then that group spewed vile, dehumanizing words back. In that volatile space, both groups completely lost perspective of the other’s humanity. Locked in an intractable posture of opposition, neither side would acknowledge any common ground. Neither side would consider there might be some way to resolve their differences or even begin any kind of constructive conversation. Both sides felt wronged and wanted only to punish their foe.
What’s the goal of forgiveness? When we’ve been wounded by another, why should we forgive? It’s often said that we forgive for ourselves, to break out of our prison of bitterness. It’s pointed out that not forgiving is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person dies, that our rage continues to give the offender power over us.
Headlines are typically marked by depressing, shocking and salacious news. In an article with the tongue-in-cheek title of “Pastor Exposed as Faithful to Wife of 17 Years”, Megan Hill points out that, while lament is appropriate when faith leaders behave immorally, we must also remember to find encouragement in the many examples of faithful Christian leaders with healthy marriages. Such daily faithfulness is simply not seen as newsworthy.
Whenever I counsel couples considering divorce, I always start by asking them this question: What kind of relationship did your parents have? Children whose parents divorce are far more likely to do so themselves—in fact, men whose parents are no longer married are 35 percent more likely to divorce, and for women the likelihood is a startling 60 percent. Sometimes in order to heal our broken relationships, we have to look back at the relationships in our past.
Although a man murdered nearly all of a woman’s family in the Rwandan genocide, they’re now next-door neighbors. He says, “Ever since I [confessed] my crimes and ask[ed] her for forgiveness, she has never once called me a killer. . . . She has set me free.”
My carpenter friend accidentally cut off a car as he made a lane change. The man driving the car came alongside my friend’s vehicle, shook his fist in anger, and sped off. My friend felt bad and wanted to somehow atone for his driving mistake.
I live in a region and neighborhood that share a tragic racial history. For instance, the daughter of one of my elderly neighbors was part of a civil suit to force area schools to obey federal law and desegregate. As I’ve spoken with my neighbors, I’ve had to grapple with the racial divide in my country, with the many ways people have yet to fulfill God’s mandate to be agents of reconciliation.
A website claims that it can help you make connections to your past as you learn more of your ancestry. They offer to take you, the customer, on a journey through your family genealogy that will “cross generations and continents, all to reveal the untold story of how you became you.”
Have you ever been asked to do something you didn’t feel qualified to do—something you felt that God was asking you to do? I usually feel this way in the midst of a hard conversation. The moment truth-telling becomes necessary or when I feel compelled to speak to someone who has hurt me, I especially sense the nudging of God. I feel unqualified to do what He wants—to speak the truth in love in the hopes of winning the other person back (Matthew 18:15; Ephesians 4:15).
Augustine’s Confessions traces his journey through misspent youth, false religion, and finally to Jesus. As a man with much to confess, Augustine was sometimes tempted to be defensive. A translation of one of his prayers says: “O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.”