Reconciliation starts with you

IN NOVEMBER, 1990 I was standing in Pearl Harbour listening to an elderly, retired United States navy man tell his story about the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour.

I had joined a free, guided tour around the harbour and the scene of the United States’ entry into World War Two.

Our guide was around 19 years of age at the time of the attack and as he retold his story the day I was there, he also spoke of the anger and rage he felt as he fired round after round into the sky at enemy planes.

Then he said something that caught my attention.

“Folks”, he asked kindly, “Have you ever felt like you are out of the will of God?”

Given the silence of the rest of the group around me, he obviously had their attention as well!

He went on to explain that in that very moment of anger, death and destruction, he knew he was out of the will of God!

Quite a statement from an elderly man to a group of tourists.

He then told us how he had signed up to the navy despite the fact he knew God had called him to be a preacher.

So, upon the conclusion of the War, having been discharged from the Navy, he obeyed God and became a Presbyterian minister for the rest of his life.

Then came the punchline to his story.

He went on to tell how one of the Japanese pilots bombing Pearl Harbour also became a committed Christian and minister after the war.

Decades later, the two former enemies met with the Japanese pastor preaching in the old navy man’s church in Hawaii!

As he brought his story to its conclusion, he held up a photograph of the two men, once alienated by culture, hatred and ideology, now embracing each other and reconciled before the Cross that stood in the church.

Every one of us is living in a world divided bitterly along racial, political and ideological lines.

News services bring us reports every day of nations at war with each other or the latest violent protest over an unpopular decision.

And we read of relational breakdowns in marriages and families that all too often end with murder or suicide as the only “solution”.

Russian author, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, once commented:

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”

When a marriage breaks down, it is all too easy to blame the other person, thinking he or she needs to change.

But as Solzhenitsyn points out, “good and evil” courses through the heart of every human being.

Blaming the other person will not reconcile us.

Ignoring or trying to change the past will not reconcile us.

Mere words will not reconcile us.

But Jesus will.

That is the point of the Cross. There a dying thief finds reconciliation and peace with God.

There a man, Peter, who denies his Lord, finds reconciliation.

And there I have found peace and reconciliation – with my sin, my past, with people and with God. I still struggle a lot and I don’t always love people as well as I should.

But I know this: reconciliation begins with me, reaching out to people who at times both annoy and drive me crazy but with the sincere hope that perhaps they will see Jesus in me and be reconciled to Him.

Is your marriage in trouble?

My prayer for you is that you will ask Jesus to bring His peace to your hungry and wounded soul.

Then take the first step yourself to reconcile with your husband or wife.

True intimacy means sharing your burdens

luggage

Everyone comes into a marriage carrying emotional and relational baggage.

A skit performed in a church in the United States illustrated this by showing the young couple taking their vows while having heavy burdens labelled guilt, insecurity and fear draped over their bodies. When it came time to “kiss the bride” they were unable to do so – “how can you hold someone when you are carrying so much baggage on your arms?”

What do we do with the baggage?

Pretend it’s not there?

Hope that we lose it at the airport of life?

Expect our partner to carry it?!

Solomon gave some very helpful advice about how we might handle our baggage when he wrote:

“Two are better than one, *because they have a good return for their labour:
If either of them falls down,*one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls*and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.*But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,*two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

In the world in which Solomon lived, people would often travel at night but the journey was dangerous. There was the risk of violent robbery and, at night, falling into deep ditches carved out through the constant wear and tear of travellers and the weather upon the road.

Only if you travelled travel with someone could you be sure someone would immediately help you out.

It has been my experience in marriage that when I share my burdens – notice that I did not say dump my burdens – my wife Karen will listen to me, encourage me and pray for me.

And when this happens, I am incredibly aware of both the truth and the comfort of having a true friend beside me and who is able to lift me out of whatever emotional ditch I may have fallen into.

And of course, I do the same for Karen.

This is what true intimacy in marriage is all about.

It is the assurance that the person closest to you will listen to you when you are in trouble and not judge or reject you.

It is the confidence of knowing that there is someone traveling with you on the road of life and they will always be there for you.

Gordon MacDonald likens it to traveling through life in “the company of a happy few” – that as husband and wife you experience the joy and delight of not just being lovers, but true friends as well.

More poetically, Michael Card describes it this way:

Home is where someone is waiting and loving
And happy to see you again,
That half of your heart that somebody else treasures
The one who’s your forever friend.

We all have baggage and we do bring it into our relationships.

Some of us are unaware of our baggage and for some of us, it may take a lifetime to be rid of it.

Which is why it is much better to share the load with someone else.

How sad it is to see couples who have been married for decades but have never come to the place of truly being able to help each other out of the ditches of life.

One more thing.

Solomon spoke of the “cord of three strands.”

How much stronger is the couple that not only supports each other in tough times but also relies on God’s everlasting and unfailing strength, grace and encouragement!?