I recently found myself at a public function that I had struggled with for weeks on attending. The reason for my aversion was not that I didn’t want to attend the event, but it had more to do with who would be in attendance. This event was going to be put me in close proximity with faces from the past that I had unresolved issues with, and I wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge.
For much of the event I was able to stay to my corner and mingle with people who knew nothing of the underlying currents. A smile, a wave, a few words, and I just kept moving, trying to end the evening without a confrontation. Alas, God has always had this way of making me face the uncomfortable things in my life by bringing a conviction that overwhelms any personal discomfort I may be feeling. This was one of those times.
Toward the end of the evening the antagonist, at least in my eyes, was walking through the room. I leaned to my wife and asked for her advice. She looked at me and said, “You need to talk to him.” As much as I love my wife, I wished she had said something else, because now, not only did I have conviction from God in my heart, but also the confirmation from my wife in my ears. That my friends, is a powerful combination.
I nervously approached the man who on one hand I knew I owed a lot, yet on the other hand felt justified in being betrayed by. I had no idea what I was to say, but knew that I was at a crossroads moment in my life. To say I was in conflict is an understatement, because the history between us was undeniable, and not very good. It is this conflict that is responsible for overwhelming the small voice of God leading us to closure from moments in our lives that are not nearly as clear as we may think they are.
As I stood there waiting for him to turn, I prayed…what am I suppose to say? He turned and looked at me and the ten years between us faded away. What came out of my mouth was not what I had expected this moment to be all the times I had envisioned it. I looked at him and said “I’m sorry, I was wrong all those years ago and I ask your forgiveness.”
Those who know the circumstance would probably wonder why I did what I did. They might remind me of all the events that led up to my decision those years ago. They might remind me of the loneliness of losing a mentor in my professional life. They could even point out the fact that I had been loyal right up to that moment that I wasn’t and every word they would say would be wrong but it wouldn’t change this fact. God wanted to close a door to the past and the only way for it to happen was for me get humble, not defensive while trying to justify myself, and ask forgiveness.
The man stood for a moment, then reached out to hug me and said something I hope to hang on to. He told me that he was too old to hang on to old offenses. He just didn’t have the strength or time to waste energy on hurts in the past. He forgave me and said he was proud of me. That I had grown up well. As sure as I write these words, I heard the door close in my mind and I knew that the grips of a past hurt were gone forever.
It may seem that it was a one-sided conversation and that for true closure to come I would need to have my feelings be acknowledged and an apology be reciprocated, but that would void the lesson. God doesn’t ever ask us to do something and then says our obedience is only required if certain conditions are met. He just asks us to obey.
Paul wrote of a work started and finished by God. I wonder how many of us get into the process and never see it finished because we put conditions on our surrender. Our past can become a deep abyss that holds power to drag us down at will, even though God has promised us freedom in Him. Sometimes the thing that frees is the thing we don’t want to do. It is in the still small voice of a loving God that closure can be found. Not every step is fun. Not every step is easy, but the reward of doing the right thing can mean better days are still to come.