Years ago I was working in office with my co-worker “Melissa.” She and I were friends. Despite our friendship though, something went terribly wrong. I picked up a bad habit. You see, I had begun to arrive five minutes late to work, every day. She began to call me on it every time. Now, chronic minor lateness doesn’t seem like an issue that would warrant a persistent fuss. In our line of work though, we were expected to be ready to answer phone calls at 6:30 am. Often we were facing crises calls immediately. My being late meant that she got all of these first calls every day. I’d hazard to say that most of us aren’t ready to be on an urgent phone call at 6:30 in the morning, so you can imagine the atmosphere. Except I wasn’t really considering how my lateness was affecting her work day.
So she began to call me on it, in a frank manner, every time. That started to bother me. My irritation escalated the point that, one grumpy morning, I decided to give her a piece of my mind. Loudly, and publicly. I was careful about it first though. I was sure to “own up to” my lateness first, before I demanded she stop calling me out. Thus I disarmed her every defense before I laid bare my demands. I am deeply shamed by this confession today. I would beg understanding around the fact that this was 6:30 in the morning. There’s no denying though, this was a nasty turn I dealt her. I can only imagine the flavor of her hurt; mortification? Betrayal?
In the aftermath, I tried getting her to meet with me so I could apologize. She was not willing. I had given up my chances for a calm follow-up conversation. I had to accept that. We settled on keeping the peace until she left the office on maternity leave. That was the end of it. Or so I thought.
A year or two later I left on maternity leave myself. My busy arms gave my unengaged mind an abundance of time to think and pray. I began to engage with my faith and with God like never before. I noticed that my husband was increasingly distant from me. I did not know why. I felt like I was losing my attractiveness to him. Somehow I knew it had nothing to do with our new baby. Finally, and tearfully, when pressed, he revealed the source of the problem, for him.
The problem was the way I treated other people. Shockingly, this came as a shock to me.
I saw a pattern emerge in my more troubling relationships, including recent conflicts with our mutual family. The pattern was build-up to an explosive confrontation, followed by alienation and desertion of the relationship. As obviously terrible as this sounds, to me at the time I thought of it as little other than staying away from mean people. Avoiding people I didn’t get along with. Truthfully, I wrote them off (even members of my own family!) rather than reconcile. And it was suddenly, so clearly, devastatingly wrong.
It seems the words sin and sinner have been watered down to the point of silliness to modern ears. The loss of the weight of this term is a shame. This is one of the few moments in my life where I truly saw what my sin is like, and it was very ugly. So I call sin “the ugly.” Once I saw how ugly it was, I wanted to get as far as possible from the sin inside me. Thank God. Through guidance with a church counselor and a book called The Peacemaker by Ken Sande I began to understand the essence of reconciliation.
During this process I incidentally came across Melissa’s husband in the grocery store. Perhaps he simply did not recognize me. Or maybe he was uncomfortable saying “Hi.” But I felt like he was giving me the cold shoulder. In this instant, I knew. I KNEEEEEEWWWW that things were not right. I saw my actions affecting more people than Melissa and I. This situation needed to be amended.
I had not spoken to Melissa in a couple years. She had not wanted to meet about this in the past. I had given up my right to expect that she would respond to me reaching out. After all my soul searching I realized that, while my intentions to apologize were good, I was still insisting on my own terms.”Please come to a meeting [so I can apologize].”
So instead I made plans to write her a letter of apology, but I submitted it to prayer, and asked for God’s timing. It was the kind of prayer that was said in complete faith for God’s intervention. A prayer left in peaceful expectation for His reply. Even though I had no idea what a response would look like. In preparation, I purchased an ornate set of cards with the purpose of using one for Melissa’s note. Trusting that I would know it when it came, I waited for the answer that was to come …
[to be completed in The Ugly Part II]