I have always considered myself to be somewhat of a relationship guru. If you have read my blog you know that I have all kinds of ideas about how parents can raise their kids right and still have strong relationships with them. My material is unending when it comes to giving tips on how to maintain a great marriage. Don’t even get me started on dating because I consider myself to be quite the expert. My opinions come from reading hundreds of books, observations, and many years of learning through my life experiences. Many of my strongest lessons have been learned through my own trials.
Yet, there is a relationship that I have had for many, many years that I cannot seem to rescue. I have had sleepless nights trying to figure out how we can better communicate in order to get along. I have fought, pled, groveled and prayed. I have vacillated between being absolutely furious, frustrated, and curling up into fetal position. I have tried everything.
One day when I was at the end of my rope I called a friend of mine who is involved in a Christian counseling ministry to discuss my situation. She listened carefully and asked gentle questions. Towards the end of our conversation she quietly said to me, “Jack – let it go. Let that relationship go to God. Get out of the way and let God do his work in your lives.”
She also directed me to read the book Boundaries which is an amazing book about when to say “yes” and when to say “no” to a relationship “rescue”. Rescuing is not always a good thing or a godly behavior.
“To rescue people from the natural consequences of their behavior is to render them powerless. If you reinforce the character problem, it will return tomorrow and the next day in other situations.”
It goes on to say…
“The bible is clear about two principles: (1) We always need to forgive, but (2) we don’t always achieve reconciliation.
hmmmm…is that possible or even reasonable in my situation?
When I think of truly letting go…there is a visual that comes to my mind. Our relationship is like we are in two different life rafts connected by a rope. Whenever a conflict arrises the waters become turbulent and the party in the other boat cuts the rope that connects us together. I have never desired to end the relationship. I just want to work through our issues. Each time this happens I use all of my relationship skills – to no avail – and I keep hanging on to what is left of the rope.
It has become harder and harder as the rope has been cut shorter and shorter. Too many times my life has become stuck while I am struggling to hang onto the rope. The anchor that holds us in place starts to weigh me down and have a negative affect on other areas of my life.
When my friend encouraged me to let go of the rope I felt afraid. There were times when the waters were not turbulent and I still long for those moments. But it’s so hard to hang on by myself. Letting go is scary because I would be floating away towards unchartered waters. I do not know how to navigate my path without the familiarity of the rope.
I also want to be crystal clear as to whether I am honoring God by letting go of the rope. What about turning the other cheek? Or forgiving seventy times seven? What about the following verse?
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
As far as it depends on you. I really have tried. That is not to say that I have probably made many mistakes and I didn’t always handle things in the best possible way. But I really tried. This relationship matters to me.
As I read the verse again and looked a little closer I noticed something new that I had not seen before. If it is POSSIBLE. Doesn’t this verse also leave some room for the possibility that it is not ALWAYS possible?
I read a bit more from my Boundaries book.
“You will be amazed how much you can change in your life when you finally begin to let go of what you can never have. All of your attempts to preserve the old life were taking a lot of energy…letting go is the way to serenity. Grief is that path.”
As many of you know, I recently lost my brother and the grief is heavy. To grieve another relationship is almost too much to bear. How I wish my brother was here to offer counsel. He was very familiar with this relationship. He once told me that it is impossible to have a relationship if you cannot agree that the sky is blue. It’s true.
Most relationships experience a few conflicts – in healthy relationships the individuals are willing to work through their conflicts. They come to agreements by saying things like, “I understand” “I didn’t realize” “I was wrong” “I don’t agree, can we talk more about that until we can understand each other?” “That hurt me” “I see your point of view”. But you cannot come to agreements if you cannot agree that the sky is blue.
Resolving conflict requires that both parties are willing to say “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you”. It requires honest conversation. It requires two parties who desire to make the relationship work.
I had to read the next passage a few times to take it all in.
“I will forgive again, seventy times seven. But I want to be around people who honestly fail me, not dishonestly deny that they have hurt me and have no intent to do better. …If someone is in denial, or only giving lip service to getting better, without trying to make changes, or seeking help, I need to keep my boundaries, even though I have forgiven them.”
Wow. What a fascinating way to look at it. In healthy relationships it is essential that we honestly fail each other, admit our failures, make new agreements, and forgive again…seventy times seven. It’s really not so hard. My husband and I have a strong marriage not because we were free of conflicts. It is because we were willing to work through the conflict until we were better than we otherwise would have been.
The other day my daughter looked me straight in the eyes and said that she was going to give me the kind of advice I had given her many times in her life. (I always brace myself when she warns me that she is giving me a dose of my own medicine.)
“Grieving Reed is the only relationship you should be agonizing over right now. This other relationship has not been good for many years and you are the only one interested in a true reconciliation. It’s time to let it go and time to stop being a pouty baby.”
(What kind of a woman did I raise??) I threw back my head and had the first belly aching laugh I have had for a long time. It’s true, I didn’t allow the kids to be pouty babies over ridiculous relationships or things that don’t matter. And when she said those words to me it made me feel – worth it. My life is worth much more than spending my time hanging onto a rope that ends up tying me in knots.
Sometimes you just have to let go of the rope. It can be scary to float alone and you might even be tempted to paddle right back. But if you turn back you will only be going back to turbulent waters and constant struggle.
I have started to float in unfamiliar waters. I’m not really floating alone. Jesus is my lifeboat. I am gaining new perspectives and greater understanding. I am starting to see the new view of what my life can be when I am not hanging on to an old rope and being weighed down by the anchor.
I am still secretly hope for a miracle. Our God is a God of reconciliation. Oh, how I would love that.
But for now…I have begun to float towards some new plans that God has in mind for me. I am feeling more peaceful about things… Jesus leads us to still waters.