Taking Broken Relationships to His Altar of Peace
Mar 06, 2016 05:19AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
As often happens when there is more than two minutes of quiet in my house (I didn’t say that quiet was often, though), I was reflecting on some relationships in my life that have been healed—and those still in the waiting place. I must be growing up because I find myself stressing less over what I don’t understand. Let’s face it: There are a lot of human communications I don’t understand. Really, I think I read my Shih Tzus better than people some days.
The only One to have the real perspective of both sides of a relational pain is God. Even if the other party explains it to us over coffee for two hours or phone calls for three days, there just isn’t enough of our selflessness to be able to get out of the way and walk fully in the other person’s shoes. Only Jesus, the Suffering Servant, felt everything we feel (the pains, sickness, and sins of all humanity) on the cross.
Isaiah 53:5, ESV, Isaiah the Prophet speaking
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
Over the course of my life, I’ve had a hard time letting close relationships fizzle out, get stuck, be left in the Pride Place. Does that mean I live in perfect peace and never marinate in my own anger? No. But as tempting as it can be to just trot off and leave a mark of pain on someone who has hurt us, even passive-aggressively by going silent—know folks who do this? It’s its own art form!—I take relational fail very seriously.
You know what I’m finding out?
So does God.
Matthew 18:15-17, ESV, Jesus speaking
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
Matthew 18:21-22, ESV, Jesus speaking
Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?"
Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
I often get so overcome while driving, on my prayer walks, and or during prayer showers (yes, those are awesome!), that I feel such a deep burden of pain until I stop and give it to Jesus. Sometimes it’s something unresolved coming at me from five years ago. Don’t you just love those moments?
Sometimes we lay our relationships on His altar, pour oil over them, and ask Jesus to restore, refresh, refurbish them.
The wait can be painfully long or considerably short. But if we’ve asked Him, when He returns them to us, they are polished and shining, reflecting such a powerful God Light, we cannot fully look upon them without complete awe. He scrapes out us and puts in more of Him—
—when both parties have yielded hearts.
Ever wonder why we can’t let something go, sometimes after years of it being broken? I don’t think we’re meant to. When we relate relationally, we go soul-deep. That doesn’t mean we should carry around offenses in our hearts, but if we still ache from a broken relational tie, I think that’s part of who we are.
So how on earth do we reconcile that when we seem to be the only one wanting to repair?
I believe that when folks don't come back to us, He mends that hole in our heart just enough that we can move on for the time being but not fully so that we remember to continue to pray for that person. No matter what our emotions (anger, frustration, impatience, hurt, disappointment, fear), I'm convinced that
real love never really has permission to fully let go
because Love is God, and God never lets go.
Deuteronomy 31:6, ESV, Moses speaking
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you."
Every time I give a weakness of mine to Jesus, I find out how incredibly strong He is. So strong.
It should be no different for our fallen, broken relationships.
We strive and muck up situations where misunderstandings reign and tensions continue to sizzle.
What if we were to step back and rest in just praying for them?
What if we stopped worrying about when and where it would get fixed?
And here’s one for you:
What if we stopped being so hypervigilant about protecting our own hearts?
Don’t we trust Jesus to do that if we ask Him?
Even if there is never full reconciliation, our hearts will heal through continuing to silently love this/these person/people through prayer. Make sense?
Not every relationship in my life is healed and whole—although I keep praying!—but our yielded hearts are what God wants because then He does amazing things in us. And if we’re praying for them, you can bet He is doing something there too.
I just want to be the best me in Christ I can be. I don’t need to patrol anyone else’s responses, reactions, or even interest in loving me.
When we really understand this, don’t we find that to be a HUGE relief?
I realize in some cases, we live with or work every day with difficult people. That certainly makes it more challenging, but the approach is ultimately the same.
What hurting relational place do you need to heave up onto the altar? Just getting it up there is a huge feat. It feels heavy. It burns, aches, and even taunts you as you try to lift it up over your head.
The enemy of your soul will tell you that you have no right to lay it there.
But because Jesus died and rose again for you, you absolutely do. And furthermore, He actually wants to take it from you.
How about that?
When I put it there, in my heart and prayers, I pictured dedicating it with anointing oil, much like the nard with which Mary anointed the feet of Jesus (John 12:3).
And then I wait.
Because sometimes that oil we dedicate our disappointments, fears, hopes, and dreams with soaks us in His love and peace while He fills in the broken places, takes the weight off carrying around all that hurt, and heals us in ways that the expected/hoped-for results almost don’t matter.
Because with all that oil soaking in, we glimmer and shine—
—looking so much more like Him.
[This column originally ran at Espressos of Faith in April 2015.]
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.