Once, I received a particularly nasty Facebook message. Also, I’d been unfriended and I didn’t even know it. Blissfully ignorant of any trouble, I messaged this person the previous day, asking, “Hey…we aren’t Facebook friends. I thought we were?”
Well, I asked, and this person answered, with a staccato spray of word bullets and a hand grenade or two. This person was important to me. And she responded with hollow point bullets.
Relationships are famous for their challenges, aren’t they? This one had a bumpy road stretching backwards for many years. It was one of the great heartaches of my life. And make no mistake, I was just as much to blame in the problems as this person was, and possibly more.
At this point, wounded and bleeding, I crawled away to care for myself. And I became eloquent in my suffering, like a proper victim. (Throwing up in my mouth here…)
And then, something strange happened. God used something a friend said to help me see a tender, green shoot uncurling out of the ashes of that Facebook message. What the angry person was actually trying to say was that she would like a better relationship, and hearing from me more would help in that regard.
It’s hard to hear when your ears are stuffed with bitter cotton. And mine were deafened by wads of unforgiveness and self-righteousness. It’s hard to see when your eyes are blinded by martyrdom. And my blindfold was thick, black and tight.
But at this point, I did the right thing. I ran crying to God.
After some soul-searching, I decided to let everything ugly in that Facebook message melt away, and let that tender, green plant be the one thing that remained.
But that couldn’t happen without me first accepting the ugly truth about myself (offended/hurt = wounded pride), submitting to God’s cure (= repentance/Grace), and letting it go (= forgiveness/freedom).
During my sessions with God, I searched the pages of His word for His perspective on the matter. I found words like these:
- “Love your enemies.”
- “Bless those who curse you.”
- “Forgive others, over and over.”
- “Love others as much as you love yourself.”
- And more.
This discovery silenced my eloquence. In fact, it silenced me completely. And in my humanity, I didn’t have the power to pull this off, I can promise you. In my humanity, I was offended and hurt, deafened and blinded.
But here’s what happened: I found God’s viewpoint on this matter, and then, I decided to respond to that viewpoint in the way Jesus would respond. And then, the magic happened, and the Holy Spirit fired up that motor and drove me, when before, in that relationship, I was trying to push a lifeless car up a steep hill.*
With a new excitement, I began to text this person, and then, to call. Those texts and calls went unanswered, but I didn’t give up. I was real. I told this person I was wrong, because I was. I made no excuses for myself. And I told this person I’d like to start over. I didn’t allow myself to look at her part of things, because that’s not my responsibility.** In other words, I left her part of it to her and God, I let God fix my end of it, and I forgave her. The Holy Spirit gave me the ability, which I didn’t have. And He poured love/joy into the holes left by letting it all go.
And that opened the door for a new start in a dead relationship. Who says miracles don’t happen anymore? In my eyes, this was an honest-to-goodness resurrection.*
Slowly, awkwardly, return texts began to come. And next came calls. And I placed an alarm in my phone to remind me to text or call this person every day, even for just five minutes. We lost a lot of ground in our separate corners, and we had a long bridge to build. And as we built, the little plant began to grow, and bloom.
Today, that plant is a tree, and this person is one of the best friends I have. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world. But there was a crossroads where I could have stayed in my corner, licking my wounds, refusing to look in the mirror. And the dead would have remained dead.
Thanks be to God Almighty that I didn’t do that. Because what we needed was a resurrection.*
*Dr. Tony Evans, Life in the Spirit series (8 messages)
**Dr. Henry Brandt, The Heart of the Problem