Relationships can incredibly delicate things. One minute things appears to be going along swimmingly, and the next you find yourself separated from the person you’d once felt quite connected to. Of course it doesn’t work quite that simply, and doesn’t work itself out in neat and tidy ways, with nice, clean margins. It can be messy and disorderly and confusingly chaotic. If you have not yet had your heart broken, felt betrayed, or even simply been disappointed by a person or persons, you are fortunate. Many, if not most of us have experienced some form or other of disappointment, heartbreak, or grief. What is the alternative, to not be in relationship with others? It hardly seems likely or reasonable, and so we muddle through and do the best we can, trying to learn and grow with and from the people around us.
The truth is that sometimes people baffle me. I expect them to be honest and transparent and straightforward, caring and compassionate, concerned about the people around them, but I end up being surprised and disappointed when people are indifferent at best, inconsiderate, rude, hurtful, dishonest, devious, and so many other things. Jesus encountered all kinds of people as he walked the earth, some of whom were downright evil. At the end of the day, he learned that even those who had been closest to him during his ministry let him down, abandoned him, and at the end one of them sold him out to the authorities. How could a person do such a thing as betray someone you claimed to have loved and send them to their death?
And yet, what do we really know about what motivates people to do what they do? By some accounts the person who supposedly betrayed Jesus to the authorities was actually fulfilling an important purpose in doing so. There’s often a story behind the story that no one knows about and yet the truth of it changes everything. Whether this is true of the people around Jesus, I don’t know, but it has been true in my life as I experience the various connections I’ve had with people over the years.
I once had a work colleague who had become a “frolleague” (a friend/colleague.) We went to lunch together weekly, worked closely on all kinds of projects, connected outside of work from time to time. When she’d had a serious issue and needed to go to the hospital on an urgent, private matter, she came to my office asking me to drive her. I took her, no questions asked, and days later she confided to me what had happened. I had been glad to be there with her. But then, suddenly the tables turned, and I experienced serious ill-treatment on the part of or employer. She helped me deal with the matter at hand, but when the immediate crisis was over, she essentially stopped speaking to me. Bewildered by her behavior, I reached out from time to time, but received no welcome, no opening. She had cut me off completely, leaving me sad and confused over what I could have possibly done or not done to elicit such a response. In my time of need, she had disappeared.
Given all the things that can go wrong, it’s amazing that we trust anyone ever. I spent many years wrapping my heart in protective shielding to minimize the hope and disappointment I might experience interacting with other people. I would be cautious about who I counted as friends, and I was really hard-pressed to trust myself or others with my heart having lived through two break ups with partners, who left me–one for another person. Somehow in the midst of all of this, I have found pathways to healing that have allowed me to continue to open my heart to people around me. At the end of the day, this is a very good thing.
Over the course of these 40 days I find myself thinking about my various relationships, past and present. I have learned a great deal from the way they began, progressed, and ended, learning how my heart responds to such things. And while I don’t have it all worked out by any stretch of the imagination, I do know a few things now that I didn’t know back then. Those lessons learned are what will sustain me as I move forward into new relationships at home and at work. That too, is a very good thing.