I consider myself deeply committed to keeping relationships working. So, when they fail (due to my own shortcomings and/or someone else’s issues), I take it very hard. I’m sure many of us do. I believe that there are very few situations in life that warrant a complete walk-away.
Taking space: Yes! That comes up from time to time and is healthy.
But jumping on an exit ramp out of a relationship at the first disappointment or hurt: No.
Everything in me screams against that. Why? Because redemption and reconciliation do not have to be ruled out. Yes, it takes two. And yes, it takes hard work. And yes, we can’t control the response of the other person. But if it’s important enough to us, we can always leave the door open. We may have boundaries. We may have healthier ways we’d like to try to interact when we re-engage. We may have apologies to exchange or offer, but relationships can heal if both parties are
This has been on my mind as I thank God for relationships in my own life that have healed. Sometimes, people take a lot of space from each other. That can be painful and rejecting, but it is also a chance to pray for God to put things back together. That is what I have done in several situations, and He is so incredibly faithful. In some cases, the wait has been years. Yes, years. Sometimes, it was just months. But it was always worth the wait.
Has every broken relationship in my life healed? No. Will they all heal? I don’t know. That depends on the other people, too, and where their hearts are, but I do know the best thing is asking God to do something beautiful with the wreckage, show me my own wrong, and help me to remain in a posture of humility.
Is there any other posture possible, really, when we want reconciliation?
I don’t think so.
It doesn’t mean being a proverbial doormat and taking all wrong upon ourselves if some of it isn’t ours to take. It just means being ready to be sorry, apologize, open our arms back to the one ready to rejoin us. When we stand in angry stances, we aren’t exactly an open door.
That said, I don’t believe toxic relationships should be re-started unless new boundaries can be agreed upon and followed, so I’m not suggesting every situation is healthy enough to re-enter. There are definitely situations in which we need to let go or keep distance when they are regularly unsafe, emotionally or otherwise.
This has been on my mind a lot because I love watching my kids discover this. When they have had falling-outs with friends, I always tried to remind them that today’s difficult misunderstanding or hurt does not have to mean a forever rift. Sometimes, people grow in different directions and come back to a place where they find value in each other again. They grow from tiny, elementary school kiddos whose biggest disagreement is that Cassidy isn’t sharing nicely anymore, to more upper elementary school grades, when the friendships shift and twist, and alliances are made so frequently and painfully, it’s like watching a reality tv show about social survival. Middle school is its own bomb going off of hormones and insecurities, and then comes high school when they can settle in a bit more. I love when my children come to me and say: “So-and-so and I are hanging out again sometimes” (assuming so-and-so is not some horrible influence). And I love to respond: “That’s so awesome! Aren’t you glad you allowed the space, expanded your friendships, but left the door open? I bet you will find new things that you appreciate about each other in these new ages/grades that you are.”
I don’t have a hang-up about my kids losing some friendships and making new ones along the way. That’s part of life. It’s human sorting, more or less. It’s how we find out what we value in ourselves and others. And that leads to growth.
But I do celebrate when they make a choice to not permanently shut off or out a person they once cared deeply for—when they take the space needed but leave an open door for healing and recovery. Not every relationship will go through that door, but doesn’t it teach us something so beautiful about God’s redemptive work and reconciliation to Himself through Jesus on the cross on our behalf when we see Him take our yielded, open hearts and make what’s messy all sparkly and new? There is so much darkness and lack of hope in this world that one of the most precious things to me is seeing answered prayer through restored relationships. It’s God working in our midst, taking what is broken on each side of the relationship and giving it the wholeness only He can give. He asks us to be reconciled, before it escalates into something big and brutal.
Are there places you desire this? Do you struggle, like I do, on waiting it out, being patient, letting God take it? We can find hope in His promises, today and always, if you trust Him and call Him your own. There is a God who hears and wants to bring not only reconciliation of people to Himself but also with each other. It can require the often difficult choice of humility and a yielded heart, but that’s the road I want to always travel on—because it’s the only one that leads to peace of heart and lived-out grace.
Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus speaking
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
Colossians 1:19-20, Apostle Paul speaking (reference to Jesus Christ)
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
2 Corinthians 5:17-20, Apostle Paul speaking
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
More on relational healing and restoration can be found in Not Just on Sundays.