Feeble Knees

Friday, April 08, 2005


It's been going on for about two months now, with no end in sight, and I hate it. I didn't want to write about it either, but it's gnawing at me.

A good friend of ours is not speaking to us. For the past couple of years he's been hiding bits of himself from us and building a new life in secrecy. Important decisions were made and he didn't tell us; we found things out after the fact. We tried to let it slide and give him space, we just wanted to keep the lines of communication open. It started to feel less and less like a close friendship. We were concerned, frustrated, tired, and eventually ticked off by the strain.

It came to a head about two months ago. He called us to say he had gotten remarried the weekend before. We couldn't be happy for him. We were sorry we couldn't be, but circumstances and details were such that we just couldn't. It hurt. We want nothing more than to be happy and overjoyed over the direction of his life. We are worried about his present and future, and concerned that things are bound to turn out badly for him. We'd tried to express our feelings before, but it fell on obstinate, deaf ears.

Anyway, details aside, things didn't go well after he broke the news. He said and did things that upset us. We said things in anger and frustration. What we had to say may have been justified, but we didn't check our emotions, and they just boiled over. It got ugly. We haven't spoken since.

The silence is deafening, and we hate it. We wander around the house sometimes, both of us wondering what we could have done differently, if things could have worked out another way. We question ourselves and wonder if we over-reacted. We wish we could rewind the last three years with this friend and do them over.

* * *

I met with his ex-wife not long after his remarriage. She was doing better with the news than I. We met for lunch, which mostly consisted of playing with our food and staring at the table top as we talked in low, resigned tones. She was trying to look at his remarriage as a means of closure for her. She was looking for a bright side, something to hang on to. I was looking for a tragic, Shakespearean ending, replete with ruined lives and fortunes piled in a bloody heap as the curtain came down. It is times like this that I get annoyed that I'm supposed to have faith, that I'm to believe that God can work all things together for good.

* * *

Unforgiveness is a killer. Several years ago I had a life and death struggle with unforgiveness that ripped me apart. It was a cancerous thing, with ravenous sucking tentacles invading my soul. Its excrement seethed and boiled and oozed out of every pore and poisoned me slowly for years. I was a gracious and willing host though, and fed this toxic pet with a steady diet of righteous indignation; and so it flourished.

One of us was going to die. For weeks I knew the diagnosis and the treatment. I tried to deceive myself: it's unnecessary, it's just too radical. Even thinking about killing off this thing made my heart rise in my throat and my pulse quicken. I didn't want to, not yet, not ever. How the willingness finally came is inexplicable, it was a cosmic surrender that shook me to the core and made me physically ill. I cried many bitter tears, like a child bereft of a favorite toy. But in the end I admitted Jesus was right, and I had to let Him rip my unforgiveness out at the root. He waited quite patiently for my permission, and held me firm as I struggled. When at last I gave in, He moved in quickly with surgical precision. In a night and a day, I was free.

Outward signs and wonders do not impress me that much. I've seen lame people leap up and gallop around the sanctuary, and hey, that's great. Bones may be healed and strengthened and lengthened; that's wonderful, but someday life will leave them for good and they will decay in the grave. Complex, unknowable miracles of the heart take my breath away. Those are the ones remain and endure into eternity, the ultimate proof of the presence and power of a living God.

* * *

Since our big blowout months ago, I've been trying to starve the new thing growing inside, this bitter little shoot. Anne Lamott once wrote about harboring her own "worm", and confessed to feeding it "grim bits" to sustain and grow it. I try to remember that we love our friend, that deep down he loves us, even if he can't stand us right now. He's never far from our thoughts, our concerns and prayers. We remind ourselves of the good things we miss about him. I've been hoping that would be enough, and telling myself it's sufficient for now. This week I caught myself patting myself on the back for even trying to think kindly and mercifully of him, given how lousy and defective a friend he's been lately. This is a red flag, and Jesus won't let me ignore it.

I've acknowledged that. As of this morning, I put my hand up and said "Ok, You're right, there's something wrong here in me that must be dealt with soon." Even so, I can feel my willfulness digging in for a fight. "But it'll do no good yet, because he's not sorry," I reason. "When and if he's sorry, then I'll forgive." In the silence I get all the response I expect to hear.

The Surgeon and I are in a stalemate.
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