Toombstones

My pastor has been preaching a series of messages entitled “30 Days to Live.”  The big idea is what would you do different if you knew you only had 30 days left on this earth.  Yesterday’s talk was about relationships; fighting for peace in our relationships. 

That got me to wondering about my past relationships.  My mind flashed on to many faces of former friends, co-workers, and partners that started out with such promise and have ended so badly.  In fact, some of the people haven’t spoken to me in months and for some it has been years.

Jim, Mike, Andy, Natasha, R.J., Brian, Jonathan….

I miss them and love them.

Out behind where I live, is a little plot of land that is my relational cemetery.  Gray tombstones mark the sites of former friends.  I take reflective walks through my relational cemetery from time to time. And in moments of honesty I wonder if all the carnage was necessary. Did all these relational deaths have to occur? If I could turn back the clock and I could have acted differently, could some of these tragedies been avoided?   Could there be a resurrection in my relational cemetery?  Are relational resurrections possible?

Much of the fault for these relational deaths is mine for I am a very flawed man.  The details of what went wrong in the relationships are very personal would not be healthy to recount them here.  But the fact is I ache for these deaths.  I long for them to be restored, reconciled and re-established.  I fear they will never see a relational resurrection.

But what do I do with this verse?

Jesus said, “. . .All things are possible with God. . .” Matt. 19:26

Is that true of resurrecting dead relationships?  Can the same power that raised Jesus from the dead also resurrect my relationship with Jim or Jonathan?

What would I have to do?  What if they don’t want a resurrected relationship?  To be honest, that is my great fear; that the other person does not want the dead relationship to come back to life.  And that would be a total rejection of Joe Chambers.  Don’t think my ego will allow that.

But God makes me uncomfortable with this verse:

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” 2 Cor. 5:18 NIV

I am enjoying a reconciled relationship with the God of the universe and yet I have these tombstones.  He has forgiven me of much and put this Spirit of reconciliation in my soul that is calling me to my relational graveyard.  Why couldn’t he have left that out?  And my pain gets in the way of my responsibility and is compounded with the thought that it was my actions that caused the death.  How do I live with that?

F.B. Meyer put my feelings into words:

This is the bitterest of all—to know that suffering need not have been; that it has resulted from indiscretion and inconsistency; that it is the harvest of one’s own sowing; that the vulture which feed on the vitals is a nestling of one’s own rearing.  Ah me!  This is pain!  There is an inevitable Nemesis in life.  The laws of the heart and home, of the soul and human life, cannot be violated with impunity.  Sin may be forgiven; the fire of penalty may be changed into the fire of trial: the love of God may seem nearer and dearer than ever and yet there is the awful pressure of pain; the trembling heart; the failing of eyes and pining of soul; the harp on the willows; the refusal of the lip to sing the Lord’s song.

I want to sing the Lord’s song, but it is hard with so many tombstones.  So I beg for healing and resolve to never put to death a relationship again.

One time Jesus went to Jericho to see a man named Zacchaeus.  This was a man who had a virtual national cemetery in his relational backyard.  He was a tax collector which meant was a traitor.  To be a tax collector meant that he had to be in collusion with the occupying Roman government.  And true to his profession part of his “franchise fees” were paid by his overtaxing the people.  So, not only was he a traitor, he was a cheat.  He had wronged his nation, his people, and in a small town, many of his family and friends.  Not a popular man.

But Jesus singles him out on the street and very publicly demonstrates his unconditional love for the man by going to his house and sharing a meal with him.  In that culture it was a sign of intimacy.  Zacchaeus is so amazed by this act of grace that he does something unheard of:  he gives half of his wealth to the poor and vows to payback any over taxation fourfold. 

Something supernatural happened at that dinner table.   Not only was a sinner reconciled to God, but that man received the Spirit of reconciliation which revolutionized his feelings towards other people.

But what do I when the Spirit of reconciliation draws my attention to the tombstones like he did this past Sunday?  I’ll tell you what Jesus told me:

“Tell them: I’m sorry.”

I realize that the words themselves aren’t magic.  But if they are spoken sincerely and with a humble spirit, a reconciling spirit, won’t some of the poison begin to drain out of the relationship and make possible a resurrection?  I don’t know.  I have very little hope.  The scars are too deep.  I guess the resurrection is up to God, that is his repsonsibility.  Mine is to be obdient to his Spirit of reconciliation.

If I knew I had only 30 days to live I would say “I’m sorry” to Jim, Mike, Andy, Natasha, R.J., Brian, Greg, Eric, Bobby, Deanna, Marjorie, Tom, Allen, Lee, Leslie, Rich, Sarah, Steve, Forrest, Yolanda, Jeri, Laura, Michelle, Marvin, Donna, Jonathan……………

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