Broken Relationships and Reconciliation

Today is Flyday! At 11:00 tonight I begin my journey home from Brazil and will feel torn again from some new brothers and sisters that I didn’t know I had, and have grown to love in these days together.

I’m going to let Peter from Australia write my blog today. He felt impressed to send some thoughts to me about reconciliation and gave me permission to pass them on if I wanted. This post comes from the depth of someone’s pain, experience, and healing which is why it rings with such simplicity and truth.

There is so much that I love in this post and so much that I am committed to stay true to in my own heart even in the most painful of broken relationships. I have use bold time to highlight portions I think are particularly significant. Here’s what Peter wrote me:

Some recent podcast references, have stimulated some thoughts on the “broken relationships” issue. From our pre-faith days, we can truly say it was easier to make peace with worldly folk than with the religious ones! Our coming to terms with broken relationships is a work in progress, but thus far, our thinking is as follows.

Reconciliation requires (at least) two key ingredients from each party; (a) a willingness to talk (ie being prepared to take a seat at the “table of reconciliation”), and (b), a preparedness to be wrong (not manipulative capitulation, not an abdication of truth; just a humble openness).

As “young Christians” (boy, how I hate that demeaning term), we were unschooled in the ways of religion. We soon found ourselves on the wrong side of pastors, elders, and all manner of “church-folk”. We earnestly sought truth and reconciliation but were shunned in every instance. How sad that it took religion to “teach” us what shunning is. Even through our son’s battle with cancer (and his death in 2007), the “shunners” never flinched; never deviated from their “God ordained” mission to shun us into their ways. But even that was ultimately a blessing; we were “forced” into a reliance on God Himself rather than on his self appointed “representatives”.

In our isolation we sought God, and in that place developed a lasting resolve; it is to always be prepared to take our seat at the table of reconciliation, to be prepared to be wrong, to resist the temptation of taking responsibility for the decisions others make, and above all, to place the love of truth above the need to be right. It is a real test of self to discern whether we really are lovers of truth, or just lovers of the “truth” we already have, and need.

There is sadness still in that hollow place of unresolved conflict, but there can be peace also. There is peace that comes from trusting God, from keeping our eyes focused where they belong, and from not gathering up responsibilities that are not rightfully ours. We cannot sit alone at that table of reconciliation forever; but we can forever maintain our preparedness to do so. If we retain that preparedness (to be willing, humble, lovers of truth), we remain in God; for that, and only that, we are accountable. God is the “light” over the “table of reconciliation”; the table is always there, the light always on. To be drawn to the light is to be drawn to Him; it is so sad that some, who we once saw as brothers and sisters, prefer to avoid the light. But this, in itself, is illuminating isn’t it?

We have only once had the glorious experience of patience rewarded; of sitting at the table of reconciliation with a sister. She came years after the event, and at Father’s prompting. The three of us sat, in the company of God, each accepting responsibility for our actions; but without need to apportion blame. Reconciliation came. It was not followed by restoration of relationship, but nevertheless, we savour that beautiful gift as it was.

As I read this it reminded me of 2 Corinthians 5 and God’s heart for reconciliation even through the worst of our sins and failures and with no thought for his own life. Reconciliation is a painful hope. When someone attacks us and refuses to sit down at the table of reconciliation, it is easier to cut ourselves off than risk the pain of the broken relationship. It is easier to reject people who hurt us and hide behind a wall of our defense mechanisms that promises protection. But what may seem like a safe place in our flesh is only another dark hole that devours who God really made us to be. Interestingly enough many of our ‘friends’ think they help us by fortifying our own defenses and embellishing our own lies.

I truly understand why true love seeks reconciliation and am so blessed that God demonstrated that heart for all who have broken faith with him. I am so grateful he paid so awesome a price to keep the door open for us. Can we do anything less than keep the door of our heart open regardless of what others do to us? I like in this post that we don’t control the process of reconciliation, but we can keep the lights on on our side of it.


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12 Comments
  1. Theresa December 10, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Wayne- You have no idea how timely this is for me. Today, I spoke with my brother for the first time in several years. He is in the ICU of a hospital with Congestive Heart Failure at the age of 47. His years of alcohol abuse have finally caught up with him perhaps.

    He has been estranged from the family for a long time……and I have kept it that way because frankly, I have been afraid of him. I know this has not been the heart of God….but well, it is what it is.

    We both cried talking to each other. He broke down several times, in between his gasps for breath. (He lives 2,000 miles away.)

    I’ve become the contact person for my sisters and and my other brother with the whole drama. How this will unfold, I don’t know. But I know for me, my defenses have been blown away and I’m ready to approach my brother. I don’t know if he’s ready to change….but that is okay.

    Right now all I see is a broken man who needs the love and comfort of Jesus. And reconciliation with his family. I pray it’s not too late for the latter.

  2. Theresa December 10, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    Wayne- You have no idea how timely this is for me. Today, I spoke with my brother for the first time in several years. He is in the ICU of a hospital with Congestive Heart Failure at the age of 47. His years of alcohol abuse have finally caught up with him perhaps.

    He has been estranged from the family for a long time……and I have kept it that way because frankly, I have been afraid of him. I know this has not been the heart of God….but well, it is what it is.

    We both cried talking to each other. He broke down several times, in between his gasps for breath. (He lives 2,000 miles away.)

    I’ve become the contact person for my sisters and and my other brother with the whole drama. How this will unfold, I don’t know. But I know for me, my defenses have been blown away and I’m ready to approach my brother. I don’t know if he’s ready to change….but that is okay.

    Right now all I see is a broken man who needs the love and comfort of Jesus. And reconciliation with his family. I pray it’s not too late for the latter.

  3. mark brown December 11, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    The peace of Christ to you and your bro., Theresa.
    You are both loved more than any of us can ask or imagine. When we seek the Father, we will find Him… and we don’t have to “seek” very hard either, if we count if true that we (and all that entails) died with the Lord Jesus. Then, we are risen in Him to walk in newness of life, rather than the “oldness” of death (our old Adamic man). [Rom.6]

    Wayne,
    We trust you have arrived home to your soul-mate safely!
    As I’ve read a couple of your recent posts re: relationships and reconciliation (starting with the Schuller clan one), I also began reading the BodyLife articles. The first one in the on-line articles was way back in ’96, the year of our marriage 13 years ago!
    It was regarding building community based on trusting/believing in eachother vs. letting the Lord build His church and give us the fellowship in Him… as we trust in Him alone.
    An excerpt:
    “In exactly the same way the Father and Son shared life and love, he wanted to share with them [his disciples; see John 14-17] as well. We get to experience their life, love, sharing joy and wisdom. Jesus identified that community as the basis by which believers would find their unity and their ability to demonstrate his glory to the world. It doesn’t thrive on our trust in each other, but our faith in the Father. The former will leave us hurt and bitter when we fail. The latter will allow us to know God in ever-increasing fullness, and touching that it will be impossible for us to contain his life and love.”

    Reconciliation is only and ever the work of God. He reconciles us to Himself, He reconciles us to others… and sometimes He doesn’t.
    Friendships (and even family relationships) are a gift from the Lord. They are not of our own making/creation. We do not own/possess them.
    We must hold them up with an open hand of thanks to Him. Not manipulating (full of hopes and expectations) them to satisfy us. We’ll only find peace and satisfaction in the Father.
    So, He giveth and He taketh away… Blessed be the name of the Lord.
    Job should know more than most of us, eh?

    I don’t mean to preach to anyone. I just get excited. We forwarded the ’96 article on to a few of the household of faith here in western Canada.

    Maranatha, Mark D. Brown

  4. Chet December 11, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Sad as it seems some of the most brazen hypocrites you’ll ever meet CALL themselves Christians. However, we must not confuse them with those who have been CALLED to be Chirst-like. It’s a continuing educational process.

    Chet

  5. mark brown December 11, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    The peace of Christ to you and your bro., Theresa.
    You are both loved more than any of us can ask or imagine. When we seek the Father, we will find Him… and we don’t have to “seek” very hard either, if we count if true that we (and all that entails) died with the Lord Jesus. Then, we are risen in Him to walk in newness of life, rather than the “oldness” of death (our old Adamic man). [Rom.6]

    Wayne,
    We trust you have arrived home to your soul-mate safely!
    As I’ve read a couple of your recent posts re: relationships and reconciliation (starting with the Schuller clan one), I also began reading the BodyLife articles. The first one in the on-line articles was way back in ’96, the year of our marriage 13 years ago!
    It was regarding building community based on trusting/believing in eachother vs. letting the Lord build His church and give us the fellowship in Him… as we trust in Him alone.
    An excerpt:
    “In exactly the same way the Father and Son shared life and love, he wanted to share with them [his disciples; see John 14-17] as well. We get to experience their life, love, sharing joy and wisdom. Jesus identified that community as the basis by which believers would find their unity and their ability to demonstrate his glory to the world. It doesn’t thrive on our trust in each other, but our faith in the Father. The former will leave us hurt and bitter when we fail. The latter will allow us to know God in ever-increasing fullness, and touching that it will be impossible for us to contain his life and love.”

    Reconciliation is only and ever the work of God. He reconciles us to Himself, He reconciles us to others… and sometimes He doesn’t.
    Friendships (and even family relationships) are a gift from the Lord. They are not of our own making/creation. We do not own/possess them.
    We must hold them up with an open hand of thanks to Him. Not manipulating (full of hopes and expectations) them to satisfy us. We’ll only find peace and satisfaction in the Father.
    So, He giveth and He taketh away… Blessed be the name of the Lord.
    Job should know more than most of us, eh?

    I don’t mean to preach to anyone. I just get excited. We forwarded the ’96 article on to a few of the household of faith here in western Canada.

    Maranatha, Mark D. Brown

  6. Melbourne Sue December 11, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    “Interestingly enough many of our ‘friends’ think they help us by fortifying our own defenses and embellishing our own lies.”

    Oh, my. Yes. I guess sometimes it is our friends’ felt duty to protect us from hurt. But as you say, it is no protection at all, not really. Open hearted is the safest place, whoever would have thunk it!

    Theresa, I can so relate to your it is what it is. How much our fear wallows up in those situations. There are all sorts of justifications in that space and they feel terribly justified 🙂 How cool that your defences have been blown away (not great circumstances obviously but oftentimes it takes a bit of force for our defences to fall, doesn’t it. I hope your reconciliation with your brother is sweet.

  7. Chet December 11, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Sad as it seems some of the most brazen hypocrites you’ll ever meet CALL themselves Christians. However, we must not confuse them with those who have been CALLED to be Chirst-like. It’s a continuing educational process.

    Chet

  8. Melbourne Sue December 11, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    “Interestingly enough many of our ‘friends’ think they help us by fortifying our own defenses and embellishing our own lies.”

    Oh, my. Yes. I guess sometimes it is our friends’ felt duty to protect us from hurt. But as you say, it is no protection at all, not really. Open hearted is the safest place, whoever would have thunk it!

    Theresa, I can so relate to your it is what it is. How much our fear wallows up in those situations. There are all sorts of justifications in that space and they feel terribly justified 🙂 How cool that your defences have been blown away (not great circumstances obviously but oftentimes it takes a bit of force for our defences to fall, doesn’t it. I hope your reconciliation with your brother is sweet.

  9. Jo December 12, 2009 at 6:07 am

    I have traveled the gambit. From fundamentalism to this search for LOVE exemplified by my Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot look harshly at my “boxed up” brothers and sisters in Christ. Because I would be looking at a mirror image of me at some time in my journey.

    It was not the harsh accusations that gently led me on this journey, it was the straight forward, many times rejected (by me) heretical thoughts and ideas these off the world people (of which I am now one) interjected. They were well chosen and timely given. There was enough love, respect, and awe on my part that though I could not understand or justify what they were saying, it was embedded in my soul, waiting for other seeds that would join them there.

    I have to move beyond the anger at those who are because I was one of them. Reconciliation is sometimes the only path back to them. And their only path on to Him?

  10. Jo December 12, 2009 at 9:07 am

    I have traveled the gambit. From fundamentalism to this search for LOVE exemplified by my Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot look harshly at my “boxed up” brothers and sisters in Christ. Because I would be looking at a mirror image of me at some time in my journey.

    It was not the harsh accusations that gently led me on this journey, it was the straight forward, many times rejected (by me) heretical thoughts and ideas these off the world people (of which I am now one) interjected. They were well chosen and timely given. There was enough love, respect, and awe on my part that though I could not understand or justify what they were saying, it was embedded in my soul, waiting for other seeds that would join them there.

    I have to move beyond the anger at those who are because I was one of them. Reconciliation is sometimes the only path back to them. And their only path on to Him?

  11. Sis December 28, 2009 at 10:50 am

    This blog entry was really meaningful to me. It inspired me to attempt reconciliation with someone with whom I have a broken relationship. Keeping in mind “to always be prepared to take our seat at the table of reconciliation, to be prepared to be wrong, ” I went in and the attempt failed. The other person wouldn’t “play the game” with the same “rules” I was using. (you know I’m not saying this is a game)

    Now I have to “resist the temptation of taking responsibility for the decisions others make.” Her decision not to forgive me, not to be reconciled, is not my responsibility, and believe me, it IS a temptation to keep thinking it is! (“If I’d only tried a little harder…”)

    As I was praying about it, I told Papa, “I want to have a relationship with her, but she won’t let me!” and the thought that came into my head was, “Now you know how I feel”. I thought of the vast numbers of people over all time who “won’t let him” and how hard that must be for him. Yet he keeps on being “at the table”.

    Thanks to Mark for this: “Friendships (and even family relationships) are a gift from the Lord. They are not of our own making/creation. We do not own/possess them. We must hold them up with an open hand of thanks to Him. Not manipulating (full of hopes and expectations) them to satisfy us.” What great truths!

  12. Sis December 28, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    This blog entry was really meaningful to me. It inspired me to attempt reconciliation with someone with whom I have a broken relationship. Keeping in mind “to always be prepared to take our seat at the table of reconciliation, to be prepared to be wrong, ” I went in and the attempt failed. The other person wouldn’t “play the game” with the same “rules” I was using. (you know I’m not saying this is a game)

    Now I have to “resist the temptation of taking responsibility for the decisions others make.” Her decision not to forgive me, not to be reconciled, is not my responsibility, and believe me, it IS a temptation to keep thinking it is! (“If I’d only tried a little harder…”)

    As I was praying about it, I told Papa, “I want to have a relationship with her, but she won’t let me!” and the thought that came into my head was, “Now you know how I feel”. I thought of the vast numbers of people over all time who “won’t let him” and how hard that must be for him. Yet he keeps on being “at the table”.

    Thanks to Mark for this: “Friendships (and even family relationships) are a gift from the Lord. They are not of our own making/creation. We do not own/possess them. We must hold them up with an open hand of thanks to Him. Not manipulating (full of hopes and expectations) them to satisfy us.” What great truths!

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