Sunday, August 7, 2011


I'll call him George. We've talked more than once, certainly, but one conversation from a couple of years ago has planted itself in my soul.

He had called me on that day with a task at hand and information to be shared. I was glad to hear from him... but not for long. I was caught off guard by some of his statements, became defensive, and had no idea how to respond. The more we talked, the angrier I became. The angrier I became, the less I spoke. The less I spoke, the more he talked. It became a downward spiral. I was relieved when we finally ended the call, though still not at ease because there was now a big barrier between us.

He actually would be pretty easy for me to avoid -- our paths generally do not cross unless we're intentional about it -- and I thought about just ignoring the conflict. After all (it seemed to me), I had tried to speak reasonably and George had responded unreasonably, and he sounded pretty adamant about his position. There wasn't much hope in continuing, right?

But I couldn't in good conscience just leave it alone. I also couldn't shake the feeling that his unreasonable-seeming behavior was not what I expected from what I knew of his character. And even if we could never find common ground on the issue at hand, we needed to restore the relationship. And to do that, we had to talk again. I'd have to call him.

I dreaded that call.

What would I say? I wasn't sure. In the end, it came out something like this:  We talked earlier, and I did not do well with that conversation. I'd like a do-over, at least on my part. Would you be willing to start over, too? Can we try it again?

George paused, just briefly. I don't know what was going through his mind in those moments, but when he spoke, his answer was a decisive and gracious yes.

And we did talk. Haltingly, authentically, slowly, patiently, awkwardly, kindly. I discovered his perspective, and what he'd said to me earlier made sense in that context. He worked to understand my perspective, too, and to make sense of how I'd responded. We tracked down a significant misunderstanding where our interaction had gotten off track, and we cleared that up. Beyond clarifying the miscommunication was an even greater need -- the need for reconciliation. I asked forgiveness for shutting him out. He apologized for the part he had played in the misunderstanding. It was plenty uncomfortable for awhile as we talked. By the end of that second call, though, the huge invisible wall between us was gone.

When I saw George again recently, I thought again of that memory and realized it is a distinctly peaceful one. It would have been very different if I'd tried to ignore it and hope it would go away. My path and George's still don't cross much, but when they do, our interactions are marked by genuine warmth, love and respect. I am grateful for the friendship and the influence of this godly man in my life.

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