Reconciliation: God's Heart for Relationships
A few years ago I took out a pen and some lined paper and began to write a letter. I wrote to a friend of mine who had been very close to me for several years until recently. I couldn't pinpoint one big disagreement or one big event that had broken our relationship. It was like a lot of little things just became too much.
I wrote about memories and misunderstandings. I wrote about good intentions and hurt feelings. I wrote out everything I'd been thinking and feeling, and what things looked like from my point of view.
I mailed the letter feeling a little nervous, but also lighter knowing that however they'd be received, at least the unspoken words had finally been said. At least I had reached out for healing.
God's heart for relationships is intriguing to me. I tend to think He is mostly concerned with everyone's relationship with Him and salvation, which He is, but He's also very interested in our relationships with each other. Matthew 5:23-24 says, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift."
Of course we need Him. Of course our relationship with God is important to Him, but we need each other too. He knows how easy it is for damaged relationships to stay broken, and He asks us to mend them instead.
I'm not the master of reconciliation. I often feel like a kindergartner, dragging my feet to apologize to an unmannerly classmate at the teacher's request when God starts to nudge my heart to reconcile with a friend. But then I still feel the nudging, tender and sweet, reminding me of how many times He's showed me kindness, forgiveness, and unmerited grace, and how much it has changed me. Withholding love doesn't change people; giving it unconditionally does.
So how do we pursue reconciliation? Here are a few things that have helped me:
1. Acknowledge your feelings. If you feel hurt or disrespected, it's okay to acknowledge that. Those are your true feelings. I used to think God wanted me to shove those down in order forgive, but I realized that He is okay with me calling things as I see them. If you don't get down to the root of everything you're feeling, you won't be able to fully heal and let things go.
2. Seek understanding. Ask God to help you understand the other person's point of view. God has great perspective because He loves and knows all of us. It's a good idea to ask the person as well. Listen to their point of view, setting aside your own for a moment. Being able to empathize with others and see things from another's perspective is key for healthy relationships. After you've listened and understood them a little better, it's okay to tell them how things felt on your end as well. You might not necessarily reach a point where you both agree, but you can reach a point where you connect again.
3. Forgive. Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." We can't really get around this one. God calls us to forgive. We can find comfort in the fact that He's not asking us to do anything He hasn't already done. He forgives the sins of anyone in the world who asks; we can forgive the people around us.