When Reconciliation Comes Hard


A number of years ago, I took offense.

The details, of course, don’t matter. Suffice it to say that my pride was wounded and that I was left holding a grudge—a grudge that played havoc with my emotions and interfered with my peace of mind. The ripples traveled; negative feelings are hard to hide.

At the time I was aware that my plight probably resembled that of the infamous Euodia and Syntyche in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Their conflict had intensified to such a degree that Paul had to call them out by name and urge them “to be of the same mind in the Lord.” While the source of their disagreement is left to our imagination, they were probably engaged in some sort of rivalry that was infecting all those around them.

Regardless of the details of their situation, Paul’s plea for them to come to their senses seemed like it was addressed directly to me and the person I perceived to be my “rival.” In my case, though, it was falling on deaf ears.

Because, of course, being of the same mind in the Lord is rather impossible if you’re caught up in ego issues and you’re in a desperate search for the kind of added-on value that has human recognition and approval as its source. My yearning for significance overshadowed my desire for true harmony, and the result wasn’t pretty. An envious heart doesn’t produce good fruit.

Sadly, I held that grudge for too long.

Then God took me on a new leg of my journey, one that shifted my focus from competition and comparison to a battle for my daughter’s life.

We lost that fight, and the pain from that horrible time still cuts deep into my soul. I distinctly remember, though, one brief conversation with my “rival” while we were in the midst of my daughter’s ordeal. I had been feeling overwhelmed by folks who kept telling me to “have faith,” but in contrast, the words this woman spoke that day freed me—at least temporarily—from guilt over my perceived failure in the realm of belief and healing. I felt surprisingly understood and encouraged. She even gifted me with a book of meditations that spoke life, light, and love to my soul during that devastating time.

But though tensions eased, true reconciliation was a long time coming. Our lives led us in different directions, and since we rarely saw one another there was no driving need to work through any issues from the past.

God, however, does amazing things—even after 20 years. Our paths recently converged again in the context of growth toward a more contemplative following-after of Jesus. By coincidence, and at different churches, we’re both participating in a three-year spiritual formation process put together by an organization called VantagePoint3. The focus is on exploration of who God is, who we are, and what He desires to do in us. We’re learning to pay more careful attention to what He’s revealing through His Word and through the circumstances of our lives.

When I saw some of my former “rival’s” posts on Facebook, I realized that she was seeking and treasuring the kind of walk with God that I was pursuing as well. So when it came time for me to find a mentor for this new journey, I sensed God indicating that she might be just the one to accompany me on the path.

They say that we should take note of the kinds of things that make us cry. In movies, the point that tends to bring me to tears is when rifts are healed and new understanding is born. Was God bringing my former “rival” and me to such a moment?

It seems that He was. To this woman’s astonishment, I asked her to be my mentor, and after prayerful consideration, she agreed. At her wise insistence, we first dealt with “the elephant in the room,” each acknowledging our issues, reactions, and pride of the past. Then we put it all aside and embarked on the first steps of this new phase of our lives.

As we meet, encourage, and prayerfully support one another, I’m gleaning wisdom from the insights my friend has gained during her own journey this past year. We’re now walking together on a path toward greater intimacy with God, not as competitors, and not, for me, as a person desperate to prove my place in the world.

And this brings me greater joy than I would have imagined some 20 years ago.

On Friendship, Silver, and Gold

What Janet and I share reflects that mixed-metal effect of gold and silver: years of friendship make what we share truly “golden,” but our diverging paths of the past few years lend a trace of silver as well.

There are a few songs from my childhood that hold nuggets of timeless truth.

One song in particular is a little tune we sang during my time in Girl Scouts. While most of my memories of those days are rather vague and increasingly fuzzy (summer day camp, “sit-upons” woven out of strips of newspaper, ditties about Little Rabbit Foo Foo, random badges, and of course the infamous cookies), the lyrics of that one unforgettable song have grown more meaningful and poignant over the years.

Make new friends, but keep the old;
One is silver, the other is gold.

A few years ago my heart was unexpectedly crushed by what seemed to be a crisis in friendship. In reality it was no such thing, but the impact nonetheless sent me into an emotional tailspin. I spiraled downward and crashed hard.

In inexplicable ways, though, that ordeal brought about some deep changes in my life, and I have awakened to the great joy found in forging new friendships. My world is widening and my heart is growing. I’m in awe of the way God is enriching my soul through these people who are opening their lives to me—me, a gal who until a few years ago was encapsulated in a rather small world. While at times these new friends offer me novel thoughts to ponder and conscience-stirring causes to embrace, they are just as apt to open a window of comprehension into my own past experiences as we tell one another our stories and contemplate the paths we’ve traveled.

Yes, silver is precious.

And so, of course, is gold.

My “golden friends,” like me, are getting noticeably older. Over the years, we’ve walked through joy and sorrow, peace and anguish. Weddings, births, and deaths. Misunderstandings, impatience, and ugly attitudes. Fractured hearts and fractured minds, restoration and renewal.

We’ve spoken words of affirmation and acceptance, and we’ve encouraged one another to “keep on keeping on” while attempting to love one another with the love of Christ, knowing that He will carry on to completion the good work that He has begun in us.

But one undeniable reality is that our individual capacity for memory just doesn’t work as well as it used to. We’re becoming more forgetful. For a while, we blamed childbirth and/or hectic lifestyles; now, we blame menopause. And, truthfully, we occasionally even wonder if early dementia is beginning to set in.

But one of the joys of these long-lasting friendships is that we can actually help one another remember.  We can recall the ways our friendships were forged in the midst of college adventures or community outreach and ministry. We can remember times of silly antics and riotous laughter or times when God’s presence was made all the more real to us through the embrace of loving, caring hearts.

This brings to mind, of course, the most heart-wrenching experience of my life, an experience that revolved around the illness and eventual death of my daughter. Many of my “old friends” were the ones that walked me through that time.

And some of them are the ones that helped me laugh again afterward.

I’ll always remember my first belly laugh after Chloe’s death. There we were in Palm Desert, a small group of old college friends on a weekend getaway, and as we were chatting about days gone by something set us off into the kind of laughter that causes your belly to ache and sends tears streaming down your face. And for me, in that moment, tears of sadness merged with tears of laughter as it dawned on me that I was doing the unimaginable: my daughter was dead, and I was laughing. Laughing hard. Yes, she was alive in Christ, but she was physically absent from me after more than a year of horrible suffering. And I was laughing.

That laughter, incongruent as it was with the despair that had gripped my heart for so long, was part of my healing journey.

Of course, when I mentioned that bittersweet experience of 17 years ago to these same friends just recently, they had little recollection of the event. It hadn’t stirred their souls in the same way it had stirred mine. But the memory-prompting, for all of us, served as a palpable reminder of the golden nature of long-lasting friendship.

And then, not to be overlooked, are those “old friends” who for one reason or another have slipped quietly away from our everyday worlds. Reconnecting with a few of these ladies has added an additional layer of depth to my life. In fact, as I interact with them I feel as if I’m mining in a field with veins of both gold and silver, not always sure of what I’ll find as these old friends and I dig into unexplored ground, encountering new challenges while holding onto the richness of our shared pasts.

Silver and gold. These days I treasure both.