"And there is no process of letting go that is harder than forgiveness.
In forgiveness we let go of the retribution we are owed.
In forgiveness we release others from the payment we deserve
because of their actions or attitudes;
In forgiveness we absorb the pain and loss.
That may be difficult .
But soulful relationships are impossible without forgiveness.
With forgiveness we can begin again together "
The Relational Soul
Richard Plass and James Cofield.
Here is the story.
Last Sunday we started exploring the conversation at our community of "Who we are", through the lenses of Acts 2:36-47. What an exquisite passage of scripture! Weaving theology around this beautiful piece of poetic, prophetic proclamation, Peter crafts a vivid picture of a baby church. That is what we are..a "little 9 pound three ounces" baby church.
We dived in the first few verses of this passage around the theme of the "gospel". The challenge of this kind of gospel description is that language is not often used in the marketplace of current ideas.
I did my best to explain it all, adding the many other words that try to explain this glorious, all inclusive sin remover, mysterious and magisterial redemption. I loved it as one always does, whenever the gospel is front and center.
The portion of this redemption that I did chose to spend time on was that of reconciliation - this "ministry of reconciliation" that preaches so beautifully but can live so hard. We find it so difficult to set ourselves up to have the potential of "pain upon pain", being the outcome of a true cry for reconciliation. We could be rejected, or abandoned or hurt again.
I loved that part of the talk. There was real faith in my heart. Not really for me but for the many young eyes and ears that desperately hoped that there is a way out of the brokenness that reflects so many of their relationships. Little did I know, I was actually preaching to my limping heart.
Well I sit here at my computer on a beautiful Friday afternoon here in OC. M is with D. T is surfing with friends before he goes off to work. And me, well I am reflecting on the last 24 hours when I realize they were some pretty amazing. Four coffees (one with Side car donuts) and the Father has been reconciling me in limping spaces.
(I am changing names to protect these dear peeps)
Yesterday morning, I went to have a coffee with S at Vitali Cafe. I have known him for a long time as he stumbled into my life as a hurting, vulnerable church planter (yep there are more than a few of them). Let it be sufficient to say, that I fell in love with him, his family and his community. It is now several years later. Their community has ridden through the rough waters of moving from planting to being established as a more robust church. A good church.
Well as things happen with all relationships hurt happens. As with any relationships, things get said, meanings and motives are interpreted, and the heart stews and brews. The sipping of my macchiato was scarcely complete when we cleared the table when deep honest conversations were put on the altar of our friendship. This was not a moment of counter-punching nor of combat. This was a gathering of friends trying to find a common soul to match our mutual love. It was good, tender, honest. It was deep, true and vulnerable yet respectful. It was beautiful and reconciliatory.
It was barely 15 hours later that Sidecar Cafe became another sweet spot. We have known S and T for many, many years. It is the kind of friendship that transcends time and change. When we left our previous movement, many relationships seemed to be closed off, folks incapable of coping with changes and convictions. But we believe in the power and miracle of true friendships. Sometimes we need to let the God of the gospel have time to recreate the sheer pleasure of reconciled relationships.
We ate donuts of the most soul serving kind. We retold stories that brought much mirth and many memories. We laughed as we expressed mutual love and long crafted appreciation. We remembered, we dreamed, we reminded each other why our friendship mattered more than moments, movements and different convictions. I think we will laugh in heaven together.
From Sidecar I dashed to Kit Coffee. Initially this was not a coffee I eagerly desired (to be honest). Don't get me wrong. I really do love R. Love him, his family and his community. M and I are not professional mentors. We love deeply. So there was deep pain when R decided to take his community into another movement. Now M and I don't have a movement. Rather we simply thrive in a relational world.
Well I arrived to see my friend. Again, the sheer warmth of heart, seeing someone who I love, was special. Again we spoke honestly and deeply. Again we shared mutual pain and disappointment. Again we expressed old stories and mutual desires. Again coffee became the platform to express a mutual desire, to value this friendship going forward. Again the great gospel of reconciliation had its freedom to bring the hurting limping together, in holy harmony.
Later that day I sat with a young leader from Vanguard University who loves Jesus and his church. (Of course it was a coffee shop - Common Room). What a joy to affirm my commitment to a familial hermeneutic. What a delight to explain to him why I could never buy into a professional, business model of ministry, but love, love, love this wondrous relational journey.
We all limp from a relational story, don't we? But that is why this gospel is so ongoingly powerful. We love deeply, we can limp badly but the gospel of reconciliation maintains the value and priority of a journey where friends matter. I simply cannot give up on that.