I ventured out early yesterday morning and was surprised by the temperature. According to the external thermometer reflected on the dashboard of my car it was 34 degrees. Yet the residue of frost on the windshield would have been an indication that earlier it had been colder than that. Did I mention that I’m not a fan of cold weather unless I am snow skiing?
I shouldn’t have been surprised by the temperature because I remember awakening during the night and being a little uncomfortable. It felt cool in the room. I pulled up the light blanket from the foot of my bed with the thought that it was probably time to search out the down-comforter.
Sunday morning’s frost on the windshield of my car reminded me of a story recently shared with me by a friend. It, too, was chilling, but it is a story that I’ve seen replicated on numerous occasions. When I become aware of the relational quagmire that families and friends permit to happen at the drop of a hat, it grieves my heart.
The reason for disagreement is irrelevant. It could hinge on any number of issues. It could be the perception by a family member of an inequity in distribution of a family estate. It may relate to something not nearly that familial and personal. Based on very recent experiences, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to contemplate that the disagreement could be political in nature. You don’t have to look very far to find repeated instances where political disagreements are the catalyst for a lack of civility and respect.
The issues we allow to separate us can relate to almost anything. It could simply be failure of both family members not to be passionate about saving the whales in the Atlantic. As strange as it seems, it could have been a disagreement regarding church music. Perhaps one friend wanted praise music and the other favored congregational hymns that were tested and true. It could have been almost anything. After all, the stakes at hand don’t have to be life and death issues. Yet, they opted to fall on different sides of an issue and as a result, they were done.
That’s the part that hurts my heart. Do we have to be in complete agreement on everything before we can be civil and respectful? I dare not even suggest that loving, supportive, and kind should be dimensions reflective of one’s response when diversity raises its ugly head. After all, isn’t that too much to ask?
Maybe it depends on whose doing the asking. Christ had a different perspective on relational parameters than the one’s we generally embrace. For example he said: “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:46 – 48)
The part related to severed relationships that I find most surprising is the lack of resistance on the part of the person for whom the relationship is being denied. It is almost as though there is passive acceptance of the disconnect. “Okay, so he or she no longer wants me in their life”. That’s a painful pronouncement to process.
Investing in the life of another takes time, commitment and love. Why allow the relationship to disintegrate into nothingness at the drop of a hat. Aren’t some things worth doing all we can to preserve and maintain the relationship?
Why not counter rejection with affirmation? “I’d really like for us to find a way to work this out. You are important to me. I both want and need you in my life. You are someone I care for and love.” That generally isn’t our response because we personalize the rejection and frankly, we don’t have the Christian maturity to use unconditional love as our automatic relational default. Instead we opt to the: “you hurt me – so I’ll hurt you” response. Unfortunately that is a LOSE/LOSE scenario every time.
Maybe it is as simple as finding a way to let go of the hurt and sense of rejection we experience when we’ve been invited out of someone’s life. That would make it easier to become an advocate for restoration of the relationship. We don’t have the wherewithal to invest the time and effort that’s needed with God’s help and resourcefulness in the process.
I’m of the mindset that most people have the ability and innate desire to eventually respond to love. We push people away because of fear that we’ll get hurt or lose in the process. Unconditional love and a resolve to restore that, which has been severed, is not an easy process. Yet without the determination to make things right our hearts grow cold and everyone perpetually loses. A cold heart is closely akin to death. It has the potential to forever set aside the love that once was reflective of a relationship. That is the worse kind of cold to experience.
In closing I’ll share an illustration that doesn’t necessarily fit, but it is one worth thoughtful contemplation. It reportedly is a story that the late Bishop Potter of New York used to tell on himself:
“The bishop was sailing for Europe and found that he was to share a cabin with another passenger whom he did not know. After he had met his cabin mate, he went to the ship’s purser and asked if he could leave his gold watch and other valuables in the ship’s safe. He explained that normally he would not do that, but he had been to his cabin and had met the man who was in the other berth. He said that judging from his appearance, he was afraid that he might not be trustworthy.
“The purser took his valuables to store in the safe and said, “I’ll be glad to take care of them for you, bishop. The other man has already been up here and left his valuables for the same reason.”
All My Best!