Friday, February 5, 2010

Have a Conversation

When I saw Dave with his family across the Atrium, I knew I needed to go talk to him. It had been too long and there was a strong, unspoken tension between us. The sermon that morning about forgiveness and restoration was fresh on my mind, but I fought the conviction in my soul to act on what I had just heard. A list of ways to avoid a conversation with Dave scrolled through my head. I’d deal with this later. Then, there he was, walking my direction with a bead on me. The conversation I was avoiding was going to happen.

Dave and I have been friends for close to a decade. We spent an enormous amount of time together and with each other’s families. Our friendship was filled with joy, laughter, and authentic care for one another. However, a month earlier, we got sideways over a single moment in time and a single issue. Something I expected didn’t happen and I blamed Dave. I was disappointed with him and I expressed it. My typical anger modus operandi is not to explode but to stew and then grow cold and distant. I had said just enough to Dave in that dark moment for him to realize my anger. He knew I would stew for days over this… and he let me do it. That was his way of expressing his disappointment with me. Ten years of joy was halted by our coldhearted-guy-pride. Someone had to break the ice and Dave was the man to end this frigid nonsense. Anger had turned to coldness and coldness had turned to fear. Our friendship was paralyzed and was in jeopardy of drifting away forever. We needed to have a conversation to restore what we had enjoyed for so long.

When Dave initiated the conversation, he did it right. By now, the point of our contention had almost been forgotten. But, there were some things about this conversation that I’ll never forget and be forever grateful for. First, Dave acted on the Spirit’s prompting to obey even when it felt hard, awkward, and risky. I knew that God was doing a work in Dave. Second, before he talked about the pain I caused him, Dave claimed ownership of his part in our broken relationship. Finally, Dave was clear that what he wanted most was for this conflict to end and our friendship to be restored. Dave and I made our peace that day. Apologies were given and forgiveness was offered from both sides. That simple but difficult conversation was critical. Unfortunately, we had more discomfort to walk through in order to pick up our friendship where it left off (but, that’s another story).

There’s a myth about relationships that goes something like this, “good friends don’t have conflicts.” Truth is… no friendship is exempt from tripping into conflict. Conflict happens in the healthiest of relationships. That's why Jesus said what he said in Matthew 18.15-17.