Sunday, June 17, 2012

friends and the wounds they give and receive

A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.

One of the things that seems to be a trope in contemporary fiction and cinema is that a brother is born for adversity by being the cause of adversity.  Garrison Keillor wrote a wonderful little piece years ago called "The Poetry Judge" where his character read many poems about bad daddies and a couple of mean mommies.  The culture in which it is presupposed that our troubles have been caused by the sins of our fathers even seems to run rampant within evangelical circles that, pardon the expression, focus on the family.

I was in a setting where I had some difficulty with family and people in my church advised me that the family members were in obviously unrepentant sin and let `em go.  It is to the credit of a number of people who gave such counsel that a few months later they felt absolutely awful that they had counseled me that way, asked me to forgive them, and were glad to hear there was significant progress made in a resolution of the problems.  I'd explain more but I'm going to just assume that information is irrelevant to this post.  My point is that even within a conservative, evangelical church the supposition that family could be a cause or source of adversity was assumed to a degree that if some family members withdrew from a church as members members of that church advised me to sorta forget about them.  Not all members--in fact I know several were praying for a year or so that reconciliation would happen and a pastor stepped in and was able to help reconciliation happen.  But it was an unfortunate testament to the culture that even some people could decide that if membership was quit the relationship wasn't legit.

I have seen through many difficult months (32 to count `em) in the last few years.  The economy has not been so good and the job market has not been so good and I have been acutely aware of that!  During that time friends and family have helped me in ways big and small.  One of the things about providential care from the Lord is He often chooses to do this through others and not all of them would be what American evangelicals would recognize as Christian or good.

I have been indebted to the kindness of many people and I am able to see because of the kindness and skill of certain doctors.  I live in a city where a specialist has a practice and this practice is such that he is one of a very tiny number of people in the whole state with the skills and experience to be my specialist. That is a great deal of blessing for which I am grateful!  I am grateful that I have been able to rely on the help of many people.  Would that I did not need to rely on their help but I am thankful to God and to them for their continual kindness, a kindness I cannot possibly repay. I have been helped in generous ways by people at my current and former church.  Alert readers who have read more than a single post will understand what that means. ;-)

There are, as many readers will note, more than just a handful of posts where I write things that may be construed as critical.  It has been proposed quite recently that this seems to have as its goal division.  That is not the case.  There are critical investigations and questions and expressions of concern that presuppose unity rather than seek division. It would be incomplete and inaccurate to suppose that any and all criticism is only destructive in intent even if some observations seem harsh or unpleasant or seem expressed in harsh ways.  A certain man has liked to say that soft words produce hard people and hard words produce soft people.  If this is true then what is good for the goose shall be good and even necessary for the gander, correct?

A friend and a brother, if I may risk a generalization, will not speak in a way that begins with "I love you but ... ."  I say this because that 'but" becomes the modifier that blunts love.  A friend and a brother may say "I love you and because I love you ... ."  Of course I'm speaking broadly for the sake of illustration. There are disagreements that are better proof of friendship than agreement.  There is a proverb that is often cited which is presented as "faithful are the blows of a friend but the kisses of an enemy are profuse".  Over time I have come to realize this is one way of rendering the proverb, which can also be rendered in another way, "The wounds of a friend are long-lasting but the kisses of the enemy are profuse."  Meditate on that a bit.  A wound from a friend is long-lasting but the kisses of an enemy are profuse.  Setting aside the conventional lovey-dovey idea that kissing lasts for however long we know that kisses do not normally last very long.

The contrast here may not simply be that wounds from a friend are faithful in contrast to the kisses of an enemy.  The contrast may also be that when a friend hurts you it takes a very long time to recover from that wound.  The kisses of an enemy you already know to specious or fraudulent. An enemy you expect to betray you at the nearest opportunity, not so a friend. To put this in nerd terms Megatron does not really have to wonder "if" but how soon Starscream will shriek out:


And when the inevitable treachery arrives Megatron can see to it Starscream ever so momentarily regrets being alive.  By contrast, Optimus Prime would feel deeply hurt if Ironhide betrayed him to the Decepticons, wouldn't he? Digression into nerd-land momentarily over.

The wounds of friends hurt and when the wound is a betrayal to death that is literal or metaphorical or emotional or whatever that wound does not go away.  Jesus know this.  After all, He still bears the wounds inflicted upon Him from Judas' betrayal, doesn't He? When your friend who you used to dine with and share great conversations together lifts up his hand against you and crushes you; when that friend betrays you and berates you and belittles you; when that friend sells you out for money that he then uses to buy some real estate and sells his soul for material prosperity even at the expense of eternal life Jesus understands.  He can say "I know what that feels like."

But Jesus Himself is not that kind of friend. He is the friend who does not leave us or forsake us even at times when we forsake Him. How often we do forsake Him.  Though we are faithless He is faithful for He cannot betray Himself. We have all been the enemies who have profusely kissed Christ and who wounded Him deeply. How fortunate that Christ Himself has not chosen to respond in the same way toward us. There are many who claim to be friends and there are friends who are closer than family.
We are often the friends who do not love at all times and we are siblings who in the hour of adversity often abandon. I am blessed to be able to say my friends and family have not abandoned me in my hours and months of suffering.  This, too, Jesus understands.

When Thomas said he would not believe unless he touched the wounds of Christ Christ came to him and invited him to touch the wounds.  Thomas replied "My Lord and my God".  Thomas was allowed to touch the wounds his faithlessness and unbelief had brought upon Christ.  Christ allowed Thomas to touch the wounds that Thomas' own sin and unbelief had afflicted on Jesus Himself. These are wounds that have lasted a long time indeed since the Lord rose from the dead. Jesus chose to bear those wounds for us and through those wounds we are healed. In Christ we can be and are being healed of being the kinds of friends who put Jesus on the cross.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful and moving post. Thank you and please keep writing...