Over the past few years, I’ve often used my year-end column as a time of recollection. This week, I decided to recollect a few things I’ve written over the past 12 months about relationships.
I do this, because repetition can be helpful in promoting understanding. Or in the words of my old theology professor Bill Hendricks, who favored repetition, “Please listen this time, because it’s bad enough to be understood, let alone to be misunderstood.”
You may recall that last January when Congresswoman Gabriel Gifford was shot, I wrote how our society has failed in its relationship to the mentally ill.
I wrote, “There is a universal teaching, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ And when we entertain hateful rhetoric, stifle health care for the mentally ill and fail to responsibly regulate guns, we share complicity in these killings.
At the time, I wrote that I’d probably get an “onslaught of e-mail from people who will urge me … to stay out of politics and stick with religion.” The disagreeable email never came, I think, because most of you agreed with the conclusion I wrote: “There is no more important religious issue than life. I choose life.”
In August, I urged people to work on building their relationship with their spouse and to ignore the Kim Kardashian wedding spectacle because, “Real marriage is a lifetime, while the wedding remains simply a ‘day’ in your life — just one single, obscenely expensive day on the calendar.”
Now that she’s divorced four months later, I take no comfort in how prophetic my words became when I said, “And at the end of that wedding day, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a princess or a pauper; if you haven’t come to the wedding to start a marriage, all you have is a forgettable party.”
But it was an October column in which I told you how I’d restored a broken relationship of 13 years with a former colleague that brought the most emails of the year.
I told you how the man “graciously welcomed me into the office of the church he was pastoring. We shook hands and sat down to talk about the things that were most important to every person: faith, family and purpose. Gradually, the image I had created of him shrunk — but in a good way. He shrunk to the size God made us all.
“He told me that he had no memory of details, and we soon forgave each other. Of course, I’m not fooling myself. I know I have a tendency to romanticize things. I know it’s not likely that we’ll become the best of friends. But at the moment we forgave each other, a weight melted off my shoulders. I saw him as a fellow sojourner who is working out his salvation in this life, just as I am.”
In the end, I urged readers “to consider Jesus’ advice when he said, ‘If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him — work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend.’ ”
While time may heal all things, I think the tone of Jesus’ words favors, “sooner more than later.”
Relationships are the most important thing we do this side of heaven. Don’t wait for a new year to consider your part in building and restoring relationships.
Happy New Year!