The first house I remember living in was my home until I went into grade 3. I remember the backyard where we buried my first pet. I remember the front yard where I committed my first homicide by beheading my, now former, best friend’s snowman. I awoke one morning to find my snowman a mere lump and when I saw his robust looking Frosty I knew he’d offed mine out of jealousy and built his own to taunt me. So I whacked Frosty. Later my dad explained the concept of melting, too late to save the friendship though. I remember the driveway where I played with my Captain Action figure, he was NOT a doll, he was an action figure.
And I remember the neighbours.
I especially remember the neighbours next door because of one particular day where I learned about the 8th step of following.
We’ve talked through 7 so far. 4 & 5 pretty much separate the believers from the followers. Step 8 makes following very real though.
Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
One day, I was probably 7, maybe 8, I was out playing when I noticed a ceramic cardinal on a planter at our next door neighbour’s house. I was a fan of the Cardinals and thought the little ceramic one would look way cooler in my room than it did on the stupid planter. So I broke it off and took it home. At 8 there are only so many secrets you can keep from your mom and mine found out about the cardinal. She promptly took me and the broken cardinal next door to the neighbour. I screamed. I cried. I threatened. I begged. I cried more. But my mom insisted I apologize and make amends. The front door open and my neighbour stood there, smiling, completely unaware of my treachery.
“Tell her.” Was all my mom said. And I began to verbally vomit, between halting sobs, my confession. I held out the broken cardinal with a shaky little hand. She took the cardinal from me and with a very serious voice asked me and mom to come inside. If there was any water left in my body after all my crying I would’ve wet my pants. But there wasn’t.
We sat in her living room and I waited for the screaming to start, the inevitable slap on the hands or the butt. It never happened.
My neighbour talked. She told me how it felt to have something she liked broken. She told me I could make it up to her by helping her with this or that. And she offered us some cookies.
When I left the house and the moment that I knew would be the end of my little 8 year old life, it was like an elephant had been lifted off my shoulders. My relationship with my neighbour was restored, I could go over there any time I wanted, I didn’t have to hide whenever I saw her out and I didn’t have to keep any secrets from my mom or threaten my little brother’s life if he ratted me out. I experienced peace.
Believer love grace but followers experience grace in the receiving and the giving. Believers love to be forgiven. Followers live to be reconciled. It’s not an easy. It is the best way.
No more secrets. No more crossing to the other sidewalk to avoid someone. No heart attack every time the phone rings because this time it might be him or her.
But it doesn’t always go well.
A couple years ago someone came to mind that I needed to make amends with. I needed to be willing to make things right with someone I wronged. It was a monkey I needed to get off of my back.
So I reached out and braced myself, just like I was 8, for the yelling or the smack. I wasn’t prepared for the indifference and silence that followed.
Nada. Sometimes doing the right thing doesn’t produce the results that are right: if the only results are what happens with the other person. But they aren’t. I still felt like the elephant was off my back. I stopped having a recurring nightmare about the person I reached out to.
Because being willing is enough when the other person just isn’t having it.
Jesus once said that followers, when they’re at church and remember that someone has something against them, they’ll leave worship and first be reconciled to that person (ie. make amends) and then come back and sign their songs.
Followers have to reveal grace by our words and our actions by seeking to make things right with those we have wronged. Followers confess and then follow up with actions. This is the path of real peacemaking.
Anyone come to mind that you need to go make things with, or be willing to, before you sing another song?
P.S. If you’re wondering why I haven’t contacted you yet to make amends and you were thinking you should be on my list – please be patient, I haven’t gotten to everyone yet…