Monday, April 16, 2007

keeping short accounts

Everyone knows what it’s like to be wronged by someone else. Everyone knows what it’s like to realize suddenly that you have wronged, offended or hurt someone. Yet there is a world of difference between the response possibilities when in the middle of either scenario.

Recently, I “accidentally” put an end to 8 years of avoidance between two parties involved in an ancient love triangle. I invited a friend to a birthday dinner for another friend. The birthday girl invited her best friends; a couple that I had lost touch with over the years. So, the couple and the birthday girl and I were sitting in a restaurant waiting for my friend to show up. He came through the door. I watched as the couple recognized him and their eyes turned into saucers as they gripped the table with white knuckles and ashen faces. My friend sat down. Everyone maintained normalcy for the birthday dinner. However, the story came out over coffee after my friend left. Evidently, 8 years ago, the female part of the couple had been out on a date with my friend, who had joined us. Her roommate called her while she was on this date and it was conveyed to the roommate’s companion (the female’s present husband) what she was up to—to which he responded, “Oh, NO!” The female overheard this cry of distress over the phone, while on the date with my present friend. A short time later a “rescue party” (among them her present husband and then roommate) showed up to interrupt her date. Her husband recalls simply making a lame excuse, grabbing her by the arm and leading her away. In the end, evidently, she had liked her present husband all along, however, since he was sitting on his, wasn’t initiating, she had begun to accept other offers.

So, a few months after the interrupted date, the duff sitting man, now alter standing man and the woman got married, without their community’s blessing because of numerous other convoluted circumstances. But here’s the most bizarre part about the story. For the past 8 years, this couple has been avoiding this young man. If ever they happened to be at the same gathering, the couple would pick up and leave. Their feeling of guilt was apparent and the moment of culpability was just like it happened yesterday.

I have several reactions to this scenario. One, I in no way feel apologetic for any discomfort I caused anyone that evening, because of one uncomfortable evening around the table of celebration, the said Lord’s supper, 8 years of running away was put to an end. It was as if this was a foreshadowing of things to come in the kingdom of God for those who intend to sit down at God’s table with brothers--only to be made uncomfortable. Two, it never ceases to amaze me what folks sacrifice on the alter of Eros. This couple had sacrificed community, church and all their former friends. Three, it amazes me as to what gymnastics are performed to avoid the difficult moment in the process to resolution: a full encounter of wrongs committed and forgiveness given. Given this and other stories like it, I think someone should write a book series, the first should be entitled, “War: pacifism in a culture of violence.” And the second should be entitled, “Love: pacifism in a culture of addictive love.”

Keeping short accounts is essential to being Christian and more importantly to being a pacifist Christian. Wrongs committed would be made right quickly, so that the gospel of peace would not be defamed among Christ’s followers. The personal and social agony of unresolved tensions causes more discomfort and than the uncomfortable moments in the process to resolution. I would prefer almost anything to 8 years of running away. It seems that offenders could so quickly put an end to their own feelings of guilt by simply apologizing and asking for absolution. This is the story of the prodigal son. Or even if the “offender” is paralyzed by his offense to the other (be it however minor), could “the other” not emulate Christ to his brother by pursuing him relentlessly, proclaiming, “I forgive you!” This is the story of the Father who has pursued us while we were yet in our sins.

I think ultimately the root of the matter is: we don’t really believe in forgiveness. We fear that we are not forgiven.

All is fair in love and war—Christ rules only over my mediocrity.

1 comment:

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Great story and reflections.