“Ugh. Firnsdhip. (Yes. Apparently that is how you type friendship after an EXHAUSTING week of preparing mentally for a conversation with a friend that you just don’t see eye to eye with. But you want to. But you just can’t.)
I’ve been prepping all day to say it well. To cover it with grace and mercy. But in that moment it comes out all raw and uneven and not at all like I wanted.
And now I feel emotionally like one might feel physically after a marathon.
And still nothing is resolved. It’s all hard and messy and hard to explain. And then those raw emotions, unfiltered, come out in a way that shadows over the truth.”
That was a journal entry after a conversation gone awry a few months ago as I sat slumped over my computer, exhausted.
Sadly it was only downhill from there. In fact, the whole thing spiraled out of control leading to the unresolved and somewhat confusing end to a friendship.
And I suppose the enemy was pleased since his goal is destruction and death.
I learned a lot about myself and about God’s character in the weeks leading up to that and the weeks following. But the loss was still very real.
So, as I sat on the cool concrete floor next to a dear friend last week while she was wrestling with the aftermath of a broken relationship, I determined to do one thing and to do it well: listen. I wanted to hear her story and what she felt. Right or wrong, I was there to hear and understand. By God\’s grace this story would end differently.
I was privy to the other side of the story from our mutual friend with whom she had the conflict. Now I wanted to see her angle. Where was the light not getting into the confusing shadows of her experience? Where had this whole thing gone wrong?
Because every story has multiple angles, not just two sides.
The more she talked and the harder I listened, the more I understood.
Turns out it was the same trio at play here that had wound its way into my situation a few months prior.
Miscommunication. Misunderstanding. Assumptions.
The ultimate trifecta to destroy all things relationship.
As she shared, I prayed and asked for wisdom. When the time came, I gently nudged her towards truth and asked permission to share her side with our mutual friend, the other side of the conflict.
“No,” she said. “Don’t tell her. It will only be more confusing. It’s over now. Everything is fine.”
Ah. There it was. The lie. The ultimate lie was that if the truth came out then there would be confusion. That it should just be swept under the rug and everyone would move on just fine.
But the truth sets us free (John 8.32). Truth makes a way for forgiveness and that is when light breaks in and dispels the darkness. It is in the silence that the confusion takes root, where the truth is buried, and the darkness prevails.
I assured her I would not tell her story. Instead we would sit down, the three of us, and we would create a space to hear and be heard. Only then could freedom be found and relationship be restored. She agreed to this and I assured her I would be back.
The next morning, as the Amazon sun peeked through the cotton clouds that promised rain for the afternoon, I walked back to her house with the other friend. I prayed for wisdom and healing as we walked into her home.
We found her fiddling with the stereo system, trying to get a station to come in clearly, to no avail. She welcomed us in, though not making eye contact as we settled in on the sofas. With one friend directly across from me and her by my side, I took a deep breath.
There was part of me that held on to the faith that understanding was possible. That when we sit down, face to face, with pure and humble hearts, there can in fact be restoration. Maybe it will take time take. Maybe it will hurt. But it can happen.
The other part of me doubted after what I have experienced. We humans are messy.
“Jesus, lead us.”
I began the conversation by reminding us all that we were there to hear. To listen and understand. “Quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” James tells us. A lesson hard learned.
As the discussion progressed, I saw it happening. Slowly but surely (and with some nudging still), the truth began to surface as the stories began to collide.
This was understood one way, when it was intended that way.
This was communicated that way, but it actually meant this.
This was assumed based off of one thing, but that was never true to begin with.
Light breaking through to reveal the truth that had been buried.
As the light grew brighter, the darkness fled. It all culminated in tears, hugs, apologies, and forgiveness. There was finally understanding to a situation that had lasted well over a month now. One that had threatened to ruin a friendship of many years and one that very well would have if there had not been space to listen, humility to receive.
I felt humbled and honored to have been witness to this moment of restoration. It took a lot of self-control, in fact, for me not to fist pump the air and shout, “See! I KNEW it! I knew that it could happen. It wasn’t just in my mind. Relationships CAN be made whole again!” Because how many times has the opposite been true? I’ve seen it in my extended family. I’ve witnessed it in my own relationships and in those of close friends.
Miscommunication. Misunderstanding. Assumptions.
A heaviness that weighs us down.
Oh, but God is faithful. He makes a path to restoration and it is never too late. This was proof.
I took the opportunity to read 1 Corinthians 13. 4-8 aloud. It is written across the walls of Grace House where these ladies spend their days and it has echoed in my mind ever since my own conflict a few months back.
We need frequent reminders as we humans are forgetful.
I read it slowly, letting it seep into our hearts.
“Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not envy,
is not boastful, is not conceited,
does not act improperly,
is not selfish, is not provoked,
and does not keep a record of wrongs…..”
That last line. I get hung up there. “Does not keep a record of wrongs.” As I am reading this list of love’s attributes, this one stands out to me. How often do we say with our mouths we forgive someone, but our hearts say otherwise when we keep record?
Praise God, He keeps no record!
And that was where this friend was struggling. She couldn’t understand the forgiveness and the love that she was feeling in that moment, the very things that were causing the tears to flow. She had never experienced it and she could not believe it was true.
But it is true. Love lets it go, but even more than that, keeps no record. There is not a storage room full of dusty old books where all of our “wrongs committed” are written down to be used against us at a later date. It is as though it never happened.
“Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
but rejoices in truth.
It bears ALL things,
believes ALL things,
hopes ALL things,
endures ALL things.
Love never ends.”
The day before this conversation took place, we had gathered together with other friends at The Donut Company, something our jungle family does every Sunday evening, to re-center and re-focus. To hear from Jesus. Richard had shared John 13.35 with us all:
“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Love for one another.
That’s the distinguishing characteristic. Love as defined by 1 Corinthians 13. That is what sets us apart in this world. It is so simple. We make it so complicated, don\’t we?
It’s a love that forgives and remembers no more. A love that endures all things. A love that is pure and patient and kind and it never, ever ends.
It is a love that I observed shine brightly that day in that tiny home with the tin roof.
This definition of love is my prayer for myself, my children, my husband, my family, my friends, my enemies, and total strangers who I meet in the day to day. It’s something I fail at regularly. I am often the one asking forgiveness, the one needing love extended.
How thankful I am that God is Perfect Love (1 John 4.7-8).
When we walked back from her house that day, it was as though a weight had been lifted from everyone’s shoulders. Restoration will do that. When a part of the Body is healed after an injury, the whole Body feels and experiences the joy of it.
As it should.
Pray for our jungle family. For understanding and ears to hear when conflicts arise, as they will. For endurance through the many trials that come.
And for our love for one another to always prevail so that the world around us will know we are in fact His disciples.