The voice on the other end of the phone grew quiet when I asked about her husband. She was a dear friend and mentor of mine, but we lost touch after I moved 1,200 miles away. I had just caught her up on our life post-move and the news of our first pregnancy.
The awkward silence lasted just a moment before she decided to be vulnerable and share the story of how her marriage had unraveled in the space between our meetings. There wasn’t one major tear in her marriage, but rather thirty years’ worth of snags and rips that left the fabric of their life together so shredded it would have taken a miracle to repair it. That miracle didn’t come.
My heart grieved as she shared loneliness and pain that spanned over half of her life. When she finished she timidly asked, “So what do you think? Are you surprised? Disappointed?”
She wasn’t the first nor the last long-lost-friend-now-found to share with me how life unwound. Each “So what do you think?” was preceded by stories of the “unforgivable and unacceptable” within certain religious circles – divorce, remarriage, varying lifestyles, change of theology, or complete loss of faith. What I heard beneath the question was, “Do you still love me? Will we still be friends? Or will you kick me to the curb like so many others have done?”
I breathed a millisecond prayer asking for words that would carry love where my arms could not reach.
“My dear, dear friend, I am so sorry for the pain you are going through. Not just because of the unraveling of your marriage, but for the decades of loneliness and hurt you experienced. No one deserves that much heartache, and I admire that through it all you have kept your sweet spirit.”
I heard her voice catch as she replied, “You are the first person to say you are sorry for the decades of pain I went through. You have no idea how much that means to me.”
“I love you. Nothing changes that.”
Who am I to play judge and cast out friends because their choices might not be in line with what the religious have defined as unforgivable? I’ve played that role. It was tiring and unfulfilling. My friends were already worn out, beat up, and exhausted. They were looking for a safe place to land. They didn’t need to be fixed, but rather to be loved.
I’ve learned to look to Jesus, who repeatedly reached out to those whose choices left them disregarded and cast to the outer circle by the religious. When I see Jesus, I know, I have no stones to cast. He is the one who does the redeeming and reconciling. My role is to love Him and love them.
This post is participating in the Rally to Restore Unity