Recently I was talking with a friend of mine who is not a pastor. (Surprisingly I do actually have those. *grin*) He told me a story about a recent interaction he’d had at church. A few years back my friend started going to a new church. His family had moved to be in a new community, and he had started a new job. Additionally, he was doing the hard work of recovering from some childhood emotional trauma. Shortly after starting to attend this new church, my friend was at one of the men’s events when he first encountered another man in the church, we will call him Bob.
In their first interactions Bob was cold and stand-offish to my friend. But, my friend could never figure out why. He just assumed that there was something about him that Bob didn’t care for, or that Bob was just a jerk. At any rate, their interactions were never all that pleasant. My friend got to the point where he was just avoiding Bob altogether. No reason to stir the pot.
A few months back my friend was shocked to hear that Bob had been called as part of the pastoral staff at their church. So shocked, as a matter of fact, that he considered looking for a new church home. His interactions with Bob had been so negative. However, my friend and his family had become deeply involved in the life of the church, and for a number of reasons he decided that he needed to remain in his church home. Still, something had to happen. The tension about Bob’s call to ministry was tearing my friend apart.
A few days went by, until my friend had a revelation. He’d been praying for God’s guidance and wisdom. And, he felt that he knew exactly what he needed to do. So the next Sunday he went up to Bob to have a conversation. He could have told Bob how hurt he was, how he felt mistreated, and appealed to Bob for reconciliation. But he didn’t. Instead he, TRUTHFULLY, told Bob that he was praying for him, and that if Bob ever needed help with his ministries, that my friend would be there for him. In those moments my friend communicated such grace and maturity.
Not surprisingly my friend’s interactions with Bob have been transformed. I don’t know if the change has been in how Bob views my friend, or in how my friend views Bob. Honestly it has probably been both. But that one, crucial conversation has transformed a tense relationship into one where both parties are able to support one another. What’s more exciting for me, is to hear how other relationships are being impacted by the improved communication between these two people.
All too often, especially in the church, we shy away from having those hard conversations. We make assumptions about the motivations of others, what they think about us, and the list goes on. My friend’s story is a vivid reminder of the importance of stepping into those hard conversations, listening to one another, and most importantly listening to God. May we all have that kind of courage, and grace!