Relational Loose Ends - Elisabeth Klein

There is a verse that has been niggling in my head and heart for a little while now. I both love it and, I’ll be honest, dislike it very, very much.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.                                                                                                        -Romans 12:18

Here’s why I love it. I love it because it frees me. It reassures me that sometimes, there’s only so much you can do. It reminds me that I am only responsible for my side of the street, as they say in recovery. And so I can do my part and then if my part isn’t deemed good enough, I can move on with my head held high.

But here’s why I dislike it. Because I have hurt some people, all without wanting to or trying to. But I have. I’m human. And I have a lot of rough edges. Like my sarcasm. Like my shyness that comes across as snobbery. Like my lack of ability at small talk that makes me look like I want to be done with you in a conversation when I really just don’t know what to say next. And many other things, I’m sure, that can make me hard to love.

And so this verse makes me feel a little bit like I’ll never actually be able to live at peace with everyone, because I feel like I’m such a relational mess, like I have more relational issues than the average girl.

And right now, I do. I’ve got some relational loose ends.

I can think of a handful of people whom I do not speak to anymore. All for different reasons. (But, all pretty much related to my divorce in different ways.)

Some have hurt me so deeply that I just have had to walk away to protect myself. But others have done nothing wrong really, but I just find that I cannot be in relationship with them because it hurts me and it’s not healthy for me.

I’ve thought about writing just one more letter to a person or two.

But I always stop myself. Because I tend to say more than I need to say. Because I sometimes don’t know when to stop. Because I fear that all I will do in these instances is stir up more pain and add insult to injury by reopening a wound that someone is trying to let heal on their own. Because more words don’t always do the trick. I don’t want to hurt them anymore and yet, sometimes, peace means walking away, whether for a season or for longer.

In fact, a ways back, a got a phone call from someone I hadn’t spoken to in a couple years. She called to apologize to me for being mad at me for getting divorced. Here’s the thing…I hadn’t known she was mad at me. And her calling to tell me she was – and even that she was sorry – may have freed her up, may have even been what she felt God prompted her to do…but it hurt me so very much to know there was one more person out in the world who I had disappointed that I hadn’t even known about, and so therefore, how many others were still out there just like her, sitting in judgment of me from afar?

And so, when I’m tempted to make one final attempt at whatevering with someone (even though I know I already have done my part in apologizing to every single one of these people), I think of that painful phone call. I don’t want to add further pain to the situation, I don’t want to tear off any starting-to-heal-by-my-absence scars.

And so for those people, if and when they cross my mind, I have simply prayed. I pray for their healing, and I pray for blessings over them, or I pray that God deal with them as he sees fit when I can’t bring myself to pray a blessing. I have asked Jesus to forgive me for my part, and in all these instances of people I have distance with, some have said they forgive me and some have said they have but act like they haven’t and some haven’t said anything at all. But in each situation, it’s actually not my business if they have or haven’t. (Oh, when will I learn this??)

I hate walking around this earth knowing that there are people out there who I just can’t be in relationship with. Knowing that I think I’ve done all I could, but also knowing that pride is a tricky thing and I could have just convinced myself that I have done all I could.

But I’m also learning this very hard and sad lesson: you can be walking through your life, sincerely trying to follow Jesus and being kind to people and genuinely not trying to hurt a soul, and you very much can still be hurting someone, without meaning to, without trying, without even knowing you are. Even Christian to Christian. (Life is so hard.)

And so it’s in this in-between, in the messy places, before all will be eventually set right by Christ, in the moments when a name or face drifts across my mind, that all I can do – right now where I am emotionally and spiritually with all I’m facing in every other area of my life – is say Jesus and hope and pray that he does what only he can do, for me and for them.

If this post resonated with you, I post on my blog twice a week about hard marriage, divorce, single parenting, and faith issues. If interested in keeping up with it, sign up here, and you’ll get my top ten tips for getting through a crisis as a thank-you.