Forgiveness Is Possible
I tried several ways to get in touch with an ‘old’ friend the last 10 days or so.
I used Facebook. I tried Linked-In. I joined his blog site as a member. I tried to connect by replying to a couple of posts he did on Twitter.
I even tore though my old files attempting to locate my old personal telephone directory, and upon finding it, called his home number (hoping it had not been changed or disconnected or reassigned to another person) and left a voice mail with my name and cell number and prayed he might call back.
From his posts on Twitter, web site and blog, I made comments, asked questions, and joined his blog. (InTheBeginningMinistries.blogspot.com)
I knew that he had gone out of town for a week. Both to a conference, to see family in Indiana, and to visit the Creation Museum in Ky. But I had hopes he might call or respond via electronic media.
Tonight (10/27/11), he returned my call.
Getting the conversation started was hard. Neither of us knew exactly where to begin. I thanked him for calling me back; and he said part of it was due to his being a pastor now.
Bear in mind, among the posts he had done, one was regarding forgiveness. And I took advantage of that post to let him know I was one seeking forgiveness (and reconciliation, if possible). So when he called, part of the start to the conversation was that he felt my original apology from several years ago was either not enough or not meant sincerely… and he was struggling to overcome that feeling.
I immediately realized that one of the reasons we had drifted apart was my failure to follow-up and be sure he knew how sorry I was. I won’t go into the details here, but I definitely did a wrong to him. It caused him pain both personally and professionally, and probably led to his having to change jobs.
What he had to overcome and look at to forgive me was HUGE. It wasn’t a small thing that you can then go back and say, “Oh, that’s okay… we’re friends and he’ll get over it.” No, it was a cause of great discomfort to him (and as a result, probably his family) and caused me to lose my best friend. The loss of this man’s trust has been an unbelievable blow to me. (I still haven’t forgiven myself for this.)
A little background…
In the mid-to-late 70’s, I walked away from God. I had suffered the loss of some close family members, gone through a divorce from my first wife, and was having major financial problems, and I needed something or someone to blame – you know it couldn’t be my fault or the choices and decisions I’d made. No. It must be God’s fault my life was turning to excrement.
And in a series of poor decisions, I managed to break and badly damage what had been an amazing friendship since the 8th grade.
Along with these other bad choices, I knew I desperately needed to escape both my situation and my location – so at the age of 26 I joined Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club (you probably know it better as the U.S. Navy).
Look out San Diego(boot camp),Groton,CT(submarine school), Dam Neck, VA (A and C schools),Norfolk,VA(USS Henry L. Stimson – Gold crew), Charleston, SC (shore rotation training), King’s Bay, GA (Stimson’s home port), Norfolk, VA (again – USNS Bowditch – a retasked special survey vessel), and Port Canaveral, FL (USNS Range Sentinel) – as well as Rota, Spain, Lisbon, Portugal, Andros Island, Bahamas, and a few other ports of call. Yo-ho-yo-ho and a bottle of rum (no, I wasn’t drinking adult beverages, just singing pirate ditties). A definite change of location(s).
Then, one day at sea, God finally called me back to Jesus.
Our ship, the USNS Bowditch, was going through some rough weather (unlike on the subs, we could simply go down a few hundred feet and ignore it). Conversation turned to the ‘do you believe in God’ and then to “do you believe in Jesus?” Usually I avoided these discussions, but for some reason (yeah, I know it was the Holy Spirit now too) this time I chimed in.
I was asked why I believed in Jesus – and “because the Bible tells me so” was not going to be a sufficient response with this group. In forming my answer, I fell back on my own personal experiences and while explaining my reasons for my faith (including ‘Lord, Liar, Lunatic’), realized I was beginning to practice apologetics (the defense of the faith).
Suddenly, I’m back to reading the Word. I’m starting to study again and find proofs to show why I believed in a living, caring, loving Father in heaven and what His Son means to me and wanting to share this with others.
And others saw a change in me… a re-repentance, if you will. I’d walked away from God and tried to do things my way and had screwed it up pretty good. But Jesus called me back to Him and this time I knew He wasn’t promising me a life of ease and no conflict; He was simply saying that with Him, my burdens would never be too heavy and that He would carry me through when I couldn’t make it on my own.
And that became sort of my reverse challenge to others when discussing God, Jesus and what it meant to be a Christian – I told people, “I’m sorry. I don’t think you’re tough enough to be a Christian – it ain’t easy to walk that road; to change your worldview. I’m just not sure you’re up to it; that you won’t run away when things get too difficult (like I once did).”
But I also knew that God had forgiven me of my sins – all my sins – past, present and any I’d commit in the future — once and for always.
Which brings me back to the present and that returned phone call.
That we were able to go from a very rough start to our phone conversation to being able to say some of the things that needed to be said and wound up talking for 32 minutes (I know because I checked the timer on my cell phone).
I reached out over the last couple of weeks to try and reestablish a connection with someone who meant a great deal to me; who I loved like a brother. And, praise God, he did respond.
Will this go any further than his forgiving me? I don’t know. I hope it does. Can we rebuild some kind of a new friendship? I certainly am praying it might be so. Can I ever earn his full trust again? Well, let’s take things as they say, one day at a time.
Forgiveness is possible. And I thank Jesus for the example He was and what He preached about it. And I thank my friend for forgiving me and his willingness to see where time and the Lord may take this new beginning.
I won’t embarrass him by naming names. If he should read this post, he’ll know who I’m speaking to.