The Key Ingredient for Reconciliation

Diana Murdock recently did a post on her journey to forgiveness that sparked a lot of discussion and has had me mulling over the issue the past couple weeks.  Everyone who has ever been wronged and sought how to forgive has come to it in different ways.  Everyone’s journey is personal and unique.

I have realized, however, that in our discussions and perceptions of forgiveness and reconciliation, one key ingredient has been missing.

But first, forgiveness does not mean reconciliation.  Forgiveness is something you do, in your own mind and heart, a one-way street.  Reconciliation is a two-way street.  But here’s the really important piece you need–the one who committed the wrong must be repentant.  There can be no rebuilding of the relationship without it.

True repentance comes from acknowledging that you did something wrong and actively making changes so you don’t do it again.  It is not an apology.  “I’m sorry” does not begin to cover the multitude of hurts and wrongs people can inflict upon each other.  Even more superficial is saying you’re sorry because you got caught, not because you know what you did was wrong.  And what good is an apology if the behavior continues?

Forgiveness is the sole responsibility of the wronged, but repentance is all on the person who did the wrong.  Reconciliation is a two-way street with both parties looking deep within themselves and having a change of heart.  We have our perceptions backwards.  We forgive for the sake of the wrongdoer; we repent or apologize for the sake of the wronged, when really these actions are internal and only benefit us.

Forgiveness releases the hate and the desire for personal vengeance.  This doesn’t make life easier for the person we forgive; it heals us.  It lets go of the stress and the angst twisting in our gut.  Forgiveness doesn’t fix the relationship; it heals our hearts.

Repentance accepts responsibility.  It mans-up and refuses to hide behind excuses.  This doesn’t ease the pain of the one who was wronged; it frees us from this bondage to lies and pain.  When we repent, we can start again, working to be better.  It also doesn’t repair the relationship, but it heals our lives.

Only when the above occurs on both sides can reconciliation happen.  We do not resume the relationship as though nothing has happened.  We do not “forgive and forget.”  But, starting anew on both ends, we can rebuild.  It’s a slow process, but when both parties are actively engaged, when the transformations are taking place in their hearts, the relationship can be mended.

What about you?  What have you thought forgiveness, repentance, and reconciliation meant?  If you’re willing, share your story.  I love hearing from you!

The Freedom to Live, Cry, and Bleed

It’s Move-Me Monday.  I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say today.  Yesterday was the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 and the terrorist attacks that killed 2,977 people.  The 9th was the one-year anniversary of the San Bruno pipeline explosion in California that killed eight people and injured sixty.  It leveled thirty-five houses and left a crater 167-ft long, 26-ft wide, and 40-ft deep.

It’s in the face of tragedies such as these that people often turn their eyes toward heaven and ask, “Why?  How could You let this happen?”  Even the most devout in faith wrestles with this question.  There’s no easy answer, only the hard truth.  God, in His great love for us, gave us freewill so we could choose to love Him instead of having an army of programmed servants.  It is in that freewill that we choose to hurt each other.

God grieves as much as any of us do over the lives lost, destroyed, and changed forever.  He is like the parent who watches his child make bad decisions, hurting themselves and everyone around them.  At some point, the parent must learn to let go and let that child lead his own life.  It doesn’t make it hurt any less.

“But God is all-powerful.  He could have changed it if He wanted.”  Believe me, I’ve made those same protests.  How do we reconcile a loving God with the evil in our world?  It goes back to that freewill.  God lets us live our own lives.  He is faithful and dependable, which means He will not bend His promise in order to change what people choose to do.  He will not compromise our freedom by denying a few the same.

Yet He also promises to comfort us in those times of darkness.  “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trials and sorrows.  But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

I am secure in God’s love for me.  “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

In the shadow of these tragedies, remember that Jesus walked the road to Calvary, beaten, bleeding, and broken.  He was too weak and wounded to carry the cross all the way himself.  And when he arrived, they nailed him to it where he could hang, suspended between breaths.  His arms would have dislocated, his lungs elevated into position for inhaling, meaning that he would have had to push up with the feet nailed to the cross in order to exhale before suffocating.  Only one of his disciples, his friends, stayed to watch.  The rest abandoned him.

So when you experience pain, grief, loss, it is no trite expression to say Jesus knows and understands what you’re going through.  He cried out to God as well, yet even then God did not step in to overrule man’s freewill.  I am secure in the belief that when all these earthly trials pass away from me, I will be welcomed into His waiting, loving arms.

What are you holding on to?