Second Calling: Making Peace With the Past - Part I
- Monday, May 01, 2006
Then one day, without warning, she turned on me. She shut down, turned away, and didn’t even return my telephone calls. It was a perplexing and painful situation. There had been no argument between us, and even our mutual friends were stunned by her coldness to me. I couldn’t imagine what I had done wrong or what I might have done differently. All of our mutual friends agreed that her actions were harsh, shocking, and irrational. She woundedme deeply, and I kept thinking she’d eventually come around and apologize. But she never did. Weeks turned into months and months into years. My hope for reconciliationeventually died. Our friendship was simply a memory.
All this time later, the memory was still painful. In his book "Everything Belongs," Richard Rohr says that God often has a reason for pain, so “we dare not get rid of the pain before we have learned what it has to teach us.”1 While I don’t think God wants us stuck in the past, I do think he will show us if there is a reason that, after prayerful petitioning, we can’t let something go. I was convinced that this situation was one of those times. So I prayed that God would show me what it was about this situation that still made it so painful. After all, if my friend had irrationally turned on me, why couldn’t I just accept that it was her problem and really not about me at all? If that was the case, I had simply loved an irrational, unstable person. I’d done my best to be a good friend, but apparently she had needed more.
During this time, I came across a book called "Loving What Is" by Byron Katie. It’s not a Christian book, and I don’t agree with many of the things Katie has written and endorsed. But all truth is God’s truth, and, in my opinion, the process that Katie outlines in this book is consistent with the Bible. The way the book came to me seemed more than coincidental, so I decided to try a method Katie calls “The Work.”2 As a first step, she suggests that you take a situation that is causing pain and write down all of your thoughts and beliefs about it. She urges you to get downright petty. So with that encouragement, I did. I began to write all my feelings about this person, whom I’ll call Mary.
Mary took but rarely gave back. Mary expected me to be there for her, but whenever I needed something she wasn’t there for me. Mary used me. Mary expected me to clean up her problems. Mary was not honest with me. Mary borrowed things and never returned them. Mary didn’t care how much she hurt me. Mary was never loyal to me. Mary called me late at night and never asked if she was bothering me. ...
Once I got the hang of it, I was amazed by how my feelings flowed. I did get downright petty. I was surprised by the specifics I could still remember and the anger I felt over all I had done for Mary and how little I deserved her treatment of me. I quickly filled a sheet of paper with my accusations, resentments, and hurts.
"What’s so Christian about that?" you may wonder. I did, too, at first. But this step is such an important part of healing old wounds that I really searched Scripture for understanding. I think this is all part of coming clean with ourselves and God. Certainly, the Lord knows that we are holding on to all these nasty thoughts. Yet we delude ourselves so that we can believe we are good people. Trust me, when I looked at this page of whining and bitterness, I was astounded by how nasty I sounded. And in my mind, I wanted to believe that I was the good and worthy person in the relationship who had been hurt by mean old Mary.
In his book "The Lies We Believe," psychologist Chris Thurman says, “Most of our emotional struggles, relationship difficulties, and spiritual setbacks are caused by the lies we tell ourselves.”4 These words are so true. Just think about how Jesus dealt with people who came to him for healing. The woman at the well dodged the truth about her marital status, and Jesus had to confront her with reality before he could heal her. The man at the pool of Bethesda whined about his inability to get to the water until Jesus asked him bluntly, “Do you want to get well?”
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