I do seem to recall you sharing that leaving the institutional church was not a painless experience. I know Jesus taught that we if expect to be forgiven, we need to be willing to forgive. Any practical advice on how much time and energy one should spend in trying to reconcile? Is the forgiveness Jesus was talking about internal and for our own benefit (as in "let it go and move on") or did it imply the need for a face-to-face reconciliation?
Reconciliation of Damaged Relationships
There is a real difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. God asks us to walk in forgiveness for our own freedom. Wherever people have hurt us or manipulated us we are asked to forgive them so that we are not devoured by the ill-will in our own lives. That forgiveness, however, does not mean that we put ourselves in the place to be their victim again unless God specifically asks us to. Forgiveness is not denial.
Reconciliation is a different process. It demands two parties who are willing to LOOK honestly at what happened, and communicate through real love to a place where the abuses will cease to happen and they can then walk on as sisters in Christ. This is a rare process, and I think God is more in charge of it than we are. We can only be willing, but until the other party is ready to deal openly, honestly and compassionately with the pain he/she has caused you, you are absolutely right to put boundaries around that relationship. What is our responsibility with such people toward reconciliation? To be honest with them about why the relationship is broken when it first happens, available to God and to her if ever there is an openness to see God cleans and forgive. This is an honest process, however, not just a "let's pretend nothing happened and be friends again." For your part you would have to be comfortable that this woman has seen how she manipulates and controls others and is making honest steps to see God transform that. Of course in that process you will honestly deal with whether in fact your perceptions of her actions were also legitimate. Were there misunderstandings, etc.? I honestly doubt this in this situation, but we must always be open to it. Inviting people to 'board grillings' when they offer reconciliation is a sign that something is desperate is going on. But even in things like this are people on the other side rarely as evil as time and feelings make them seen. They may be people caught in an ugly view of ministry that keeps hurting folks around them.
And even full reconciliation of relationship doesn't mean you'd necessarily walk in close fellowship again or co-labor in ministry. God may well have called you to other things by now. I do think our Father always delights, however, in healing past broken relationships if both folks are open to it. I've gone through a similar situation with a brother who did horrible things to me and my wife. I still love him, because we had such an awesome friendship. But I don't have anything to do with him at the moment. I've tried to talk and he's been resistant or duplicitous about any attempt to do so. So I give him a wide berth, even as I pray someday we'll be able to heal what happened in our relationship. That was nine years ago. I happened to see him recently. Somehow, he seemed a bit more tender this time.
I would only give this process time and energy that Jesus makes clear in your heart he wants you to give. We can be overwhelmed trying to fix everyone's problem with us, and I don't think that's the point. Healing broken relationships is a great thing when they and God are ready, especially with people we have been close to in the past. Stewing over it is not... God will show you when the time is right.
I don't know if this will finally be the time or not, but I'm always open to it. Our God is a reconciling God.