BY: Steve Cowley
During an interview yesterday I ran into a strange circumstance. The person I was talking with asked me a question I've heard before in such settings: "Tell me about a conflict you've experienced in community and how you resolved it." Fair enough, I've been handed this one before. I thought I would be ready for it so I opened my mouth. Turns out I wasn't ready.
I could certainly think of the people that I've had conflicts with this year. I knew the places where they happened and the places where we resolved them together. Yet I could not for the life of me remember what it was we had been fighting about or who had said what or why it had been such a big deal. And I get that from an interview perspective: sometimes you're nervous and your memory stumbles a bit. I scrabbled together the memories of other, smaller moments and we spoke about those instead. So what really gave me pause was how, long after I finished the interview, my time all my own, I still could not bring to mind the details of those moments. It was not as if those conflicts had been erased from my mind, since I at least know that they happened, but no specifics were forthcoming and they remain at large even now. All I am left with is the notably brighter swell of the heart that accompanies me anytime I walk into a room with those I have struggled and healed with.
Is this some strange aspect of the Holy Spirit at work? It feels as though, if those conflicts were wounds, they have been healed even beyond wholeness, beyond the lasting marks of bruising and stitches to true new flesh. Skin stronger than before it was rent. Hearts fuller than before they were cracked and leaking. Bones tougher than before they were fractured. Peace has somehow stolen in and washed away the blood, as we asked, but also remained behind with us, strengthening us in new and deeper ways.
So often I see people shy away from the pain of reconciliation, delaying it with excuses or denying their need for it. And their wounds pull together in time, of course, but the scar remains: a painful memory of a relationship that was never properly splint and reset. I bear some scars like that. Perhaps one day I will find the reconciliation that could allow those wounds to heal from their roots. I hope.
In the meantime, I was given a new look today at just how powerful forgiveness can be, not just as an emotional exercise so we can get on with the business of community living but as a very real spiritual discipline, bringing actual life into relational pain and death, even sifting the suffering from my very memories and heart. Though I suppose I should be less surprised: when you invite the Living God into a situation, who can guess the resurrection that might take place?