This week I've been very pensive.
Such a momentous historic event of seeing the first African-American individual elected as President is not short of inspiring for thought, whether you voted for the man or not. I've seen this election bring out a lot of facets of us human beings, and sadly, it's been very polarizing as it's been unifying. I've been saddened to see the conflict and heated disagreement around me, fear-mongering (a 2012 letter by you know who!!!!) single-issue voting, and an understandable despair about our current economic prognosis and what ought to be done about it.
So, ok. Welcome to the Human Race. We conflict, we don't see things the same way, and we often hurt each other in the process. Sometimes in epic proportions.
But all of this leaves me thinking about conflict and what do we do about it and what really is conflict resolution? Where does forgiveness fit into that?
Last night I went to an event put on by The Gospel and Culture Project which included viewing award-winning documentary "As We Forgive" about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda followed by a discussion with Rwandan nationals, a professor from Westminster Theological Seminary, and psychologist Diane Langberg, whom I'd been dying to meet!! The documentary asks the question: Could you forgive the person(s) who murdered your family? It follows the reconciliation efforts of a community, specifically in the lives of two genocide survivors, Rosaria and Chantale, who come face-to-face with the men who killed their families, as the men are released back into the very communities they once helped to destroy. Completely powerful and heartwrenching, this film was actually a student academy award winner for Best Documentary for 2008.
There were many aspects of the film and the discussion that followed that are worthy of talking about and digesting more. I was so glad to have discovered an organization that is excited to create a place for dialogue about tough issues and a learning environment for people who are passionate about how the Gospel and Culture intersect. But the thing that grabbed me the most was how counterintuitive this idea of reconciliation after a genocide like that seemed. I mean, for real? These people slaughtered innocent families. moms. dads. CHILDREN. Is their confession and repentance genuine? What would real reconciliation look like? Could victims and perpetrators coexist and live in the same communities again, as they once did prior to the genocide?
I'm not gonna go into all the history and complexity of this tragic event...I feel like right now that stuff is beyond me and it was definitely not a one-time, you disrespected me type of transaction. In the same token, I don't believe that forgiveness is the one-time, begrudging transaction many of us were lead to think it is either. Time, grieving, and divine help is a major player here.
How is that for conflict for you? I'm not attempting to speak into the lives of all humanity to tell them must immediately reconcile with people that have wronged them, especially in such monumental ways. Though there is a true freeing that often comes for the one doing the forgiving, honestly I can't begin to fathom what I would do or how I would respond if I were in those women's shoes. But this really challenges me in looking at conflict and the issues of forgiveness and conflict resolution in perhaps a different light.
I believe that we will not see complete harmony and justice in their perfection on this earth; we are a very broken people. I do believe we get glimpse's of it amongst each other at times, and Jesus gave us the ultimate picture of Love, Sacrifice, Forgiveness, and Freedom in Him. Thankfully, His Father and our Creator is the perfect judge whose throne is built on justice, righteousness and mercy, and one day we WILL see justice through Him. But in the meantime, how DO we love our neighbor as ourselves? How do you turn the other cheek? How do you forgive your trespassers? How do we live with people we disagree with and not necessarily be set on trying to change them?
One of my family therapy professors says that all couples and families experience conflict; it is the successful ones that can resolve it. Initially, I interpreted this as meaning that resolution meant, "I've convinced you of my correctness, you are now on my side, we see eye to eye, or even vice versa". I'm starting to think that maybe it may look like this at times, but real conflict resolution is being able to live with the differences, and the flaws (cause we all have em folks) and LOVING EACH OTHER THROUGH THE CONFLICT.
This is my challenge to myself. This is my call to arms.
The arms that hug, that is :-)
Underoath: In Regards to Self (love them!!)
Wake up wake up my God this is not a test
And it's not too late to come clean
Get it off your chest
So steady your hand before your face and concentrate
There's got to be some stable ground left to walk on
So tear another page from the book
Are you asleep or just alone
Clear this room from your lungs
And pull yourself together man
On your back, you're sleeping in a bed of shame
Let the light breathe some new life into this room
It's what keeps you coming back
Made up of insatiable taste
Bury your head in your hands and sink into yourself
Just what are you so afraid of
You're staring truth in the face, so come on down
You're busy living now aren't you
You're busy making vows
You're coming unglued
Time is shorter than you know
I know the light is blinding to the naked eye
So why don't you take steps away from being alone
I swear it's not too late for you
It's all worth reaching for the hand to pull you out
Wake up and step outside your box