Last night, a few friends came over and hung out with my roommate and I (we watched The Business of Being Born, which is worth a post in and of itself), and after all the talk of babies and how strange the whole process is, talk turned to conflict. And by that I mean we were discussing conflict, not having it.
I've been thinking about this sort of thing in the last week, more than I have in the last month or so. While being as vague as I can, the same conflict that had been going on for months, the one I thought was as resolved as we could hope for, took one more shot. And whether it was intentional or not, for all the attempts to forgive and hold out loving and move on, last week I found myself right back at square one, as frustrated as I'd been all those months before.
And what to do? The other night I had a conversation with a friend about how I think when you have a good friend, it is your obligation to one another to tell each other if you're doing something stupid, call each other out if it needs to be done (and be ready to listen when you yourself need it). Now the hard part is doing that well, doing it humbly (something I don't have down yet, for sure), and then leaving it alone, not nagging about it, and continuing to love the friend. I need to be called out sometimes--I appreciate someone who will do so, and then lead me back in the direction I need to go with love, but also firmness. And there is so much room for error, let me tell you. I'm thinking of friends I've lost in my poor attempts at this process, but I see it now! I understand what went wrong, how both parties did it badly, how we were passive enough to let things drift away rather than fight for something. The question probably became one of worth: is it worth it now, after everything, especially when I have other good things? Maybe better things? It's a trick question, of course, one that leaves you empty-handed ultimately.
The bigger question is how to really do this. How do I genuinely love my friend through conflict? How do I love my friend when it's easier to be mad. I found out last night that this isn't true for everyone--for some people they have to hold on to anger rather than make themselves let go of it each day, and for you all I say: you guys are miracles. I don't know how you do it, but I hope to. Show me how.
A few nights ago, I was reading my Bible and I came to Romans 2:1-4: "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Emphasis mine!)
Whoa. First, a question. When you see someone do something that you have done before and you know from experience to be hurtful or unhealthy, is it harder to deal with? Or better, when you see yourself in someone else (whether it's an issue of 'I used to do that' or 'I still do') and you don't like what you see, is it more difficult to love the person and easier to become angry about it? For me that's the case. It opens the doors wide for all kinds of impatience and frustration (not to mention hypocrisy--thank you, Paul, and yikes!).
But then I see this verse, and right there, that right there is the answer to the prayer, how do we do this? How do I do it? The same kindness and tolerance and patience God extends on a daily basis to me, the things that help me continually turn myself until I'm facing him are the same ones I am to give to my friend. And I don't expect there is a limit, even if we feel like we have one.
And so what does this look like, living this way, loving this way? My thought is that it doesn't free us from the responsibility of calling one another out and being open to being called out ourselves, but that doing so must be in the context of an inundation of kindness, tolerance, patience. And the good news is that God is all about some reconciliation.
What do you think?