Doing Hard Things
I didn’t want to make the call. I anticipated the worst possible response. The relationship had been filled with past hurts, feelings of abandonment and rejection. There had been a chasm of cautious distance for years. Although the words “I love you” had been spoken, they did not feel true in light of the behavior. I played a part in all that hurt, no doubt.
Dread filled my heart and mind.
Yet, I felt God urging me to be bold and seek and offer forgiveness. To extend the opportunity for a different way forward.
I picked up the phone to dial the number and felt my chest constrict and my breathing get short and shallow. My throat closed up a bit. Anxiety. Crippling fear – another rejection loomed. How could I speak these words to someone who held such authority in my life? I could be crushed. Again. Deep breath. Slow, heavy exhale.
“What is the worst that could happen”, I thought? It certainly would be tough for it to be worse than it is right now, but harsh words could be spoken. I might not get what I hoped for.
“What is the best that could happen?” Well, there could be the thing I had always longed for: a genuine acceptance of responsibility and sorrow for the other party’s part in our hurtful past. There could even be – dare I imagine it – an expression of remorse and seeking forgiveness from the other party.
I dialed. I held my breath as the phone rang.
After many months of no communication, I spoke what God was impressing on my heart. I apologized for my actions, attitudes and behaviors that contributed to years of broken relationship and asked for forgiveness. I extended unsought forgiveness to the other party for the things I perceived they had done to hurt me without enumerating them.
It did not go as I had hoped.
There was a scathing endorsement of how horrible I had been, there was a lack of remorse – forget the notion of regret or admission of wrongdoing on their part. There was no granting of forgiveness. Pretty much my worst-case scenario.
I paused, I silently prayed for God’s strength and Spirit to guard my heart and tongue as I concluded the conversation by saying: “I forgive you. I would like to go forward with a fresh, clean slate and not look back. I am going to hang up now because I do not have anything else to say. I hope you can accept this.”
That conversation hurt deeply. Surprisingly, though, I did not feel as crushed as I anticipated with my worst-case scenario. I think examining the potential positive and negative outcomes ahead of time helped guard my heart and mind. Despite the hurt, I was determined to not follow my heart and instead to follow God. God also impressed upon me that reconciliation takes two. The following week, I called again. I did not bring up the past but checked in on them and the conversation was civil. A breakthrough, considering.
There were no overnight miracles. Over time though, God did restore that relationship. It has never been stress-free. It has always been hard work. There are still times we hurt each other. And it is all worth it.
The most feared phone call of my life did not kill me. Doing the hard thing allowed me to reap a harvest of improved relationship with someone important to me. Had I not been obedient, that person may have died, and I may have lived with broken-hearted hurt and regret, never experiencing that particular miracle of reconciliation. It is not a perfect relationship – is that even a real thing? But it is good enough.
When we do the hard things, God provides the harvest. The harvest does not always look or feel the way we expect. It is, however, always good.
Psalms 126:5-6 (NLT), “Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They may weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.