Dear Crabby One, Something pretty amazing happened recently. You apologized for harsh words spoken. You really surprised me and I was grateful for the acknowledgement that our conversation had not gone well. Might this be the Holy Spirit at work?
Truth be told, I wish we could acknowledge the awkwardness present in our relationship more often and be honest about what’s going on. It feels to me that you are more interested in lashing out than hashing things out. When we are at the table together, you are quick to cut at me and conversation dies before it has even been given opportunity to breathe.
There are some things I wish you could know. If we could sit and talk, certain things would need to be spoken. I think I’d start with the obvious: Your words do what it seems you intend them to do. They hurt me. I rarely feel like I have been treated fairly when you sit at the table. I think you intend it to be so and that you hope I will leave.
I also want you to know that I want to understand the rage you direct toward me. It is confusing to me and those who observe the way you speak to me. I understand that you are very disappointed in me, but I don’t know why. I do not feel like you wish to speak with me. In fact, I think you are purposely trying to keep me off balance. The result of this is that there is no conversation or resolution to whatever the strife is between us.
I want you to know that when your words are hurtful, you hurt more than just me. The awkward silence from others at the table is the result of people’s emptiness in the face of poor behavior. It sucks the life out of others, not just me. People don’t want to be at a table where conflict is not handled in healthy ways.
I think you already know that I am not the only target of the behavior I see. Some people excuse you by saying, “That’s just how name is. He gets this way.” Others say, “I’ve gone toe to toe with name. I don’t want to do that again. I’ve had enough of it.” Most just back away and keep quiet. I think you interpret that as people agreeing with you.
I really want you to know that I want better for us. I believe that our church would benefit greatly if the healing presence of Jesus would be given time and opportunity to bring an end to the hostility you feel toward me. You see, I sometimes hear in your rants desires to talk about issues that are important, things that could be really good topics of discussion. However, when these nuggets are delivered with venom, conversation dies from toxic poisoning even before it has been given a chance to be creative and life-giving.
I want you to know that I really wish we could work collaboratively with each other. The church would be stronger if such actions would become normal among us. As it is now, your behavior toward me raises the anxiety of those around you and does not allow us to have good conversations. We end up over-reacting and over-working to release a tension that has been raised unnecessarily high. As a result, we are operating in an unhealthy manner. We are driven by fear of further discomfort and look for quick fixes to release the grip of anxiety that holds us by the throat. When this happens, we do not give adequate attention to issues. We are simply reacting to heightened anxiety caused by the latest rant.
I want you to know that I am very concerned about the way things go between us because God intends the church to be a place where God’s hoped-for world is lived in the present, even before it is fully here. God does not hope for a world where harsh words are accepted as normal, unfair behavior is considered appropriate, or where one person tries to hurt another.
The witness of the church is that God, in Jesus, is breaking down every wall of hostility. That’s the whole point of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. Jesus brings peace and removes barriers of hostility. The church is the primary witness to this: how we live together is to be our witness to God’s reconciling work. I want God’s healing power to restore us so that we can give witness to the peace Jesus brings.
I was pretty amazed by the words of reconciliation you spoke at my door the other night. They gave me hope. I heard the Holy Spirit at work, bringing the reconciling power of Jesus’ death and resurrection into our relationship. That is what God is trying to do in all of the world.
So, what would a right relationship between us look like? It would look like us speaking with one another in peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5). When disagreeing, we would value one another so much that we would move beyond the simple patterns of feigned tolerance. We would try to understand one another and figure out how our different views can help inform the church while prompting further discussion. A right relationship between us would mean that both of us would speak well of each other and trust that God is at work in our our differences.
I yearn for this change between us. That’s what I want you to know. I also want you to know that I am crazy in my optimism that this change can happen. I believe in God’s desire to bring life where there is only death. My faith in resurrection is strong. The death I feel in our relationship can be resurrected. The Holy Spirit can breathe new life into it.
I want you to know that this is what I hope God will do. I want you to know that I hope you hope for this, too.
Photo by Andreas-Photography. Used under Creative Commons License, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).