Sometimes, It All Blows Up In Your Face

I alluded last week to a situation, a painful, crisis-precipitated rupture of relationship, with a family not related to either of us who are nonetheless as precious to Jeff and me as our own kin. It’s been a devastating, painful, and extraordinarily delicate minefield to pick through, and I had hoped nothing like this would ever have happened. Or would ever happen again.

And then — yesterday.

I was stricken to discover that the chill in the air I’d perceived with an elderly friend I love deeply — there is no “loved,” here or elsewhere — was real, and that she feels that I’ve somehow not lived up to whatever she expected, and whatever I would have gladly offered had I only known. Now she’s wounded and feeling betrayed; I’m wounded and feeling bewildered. I don’t know what I’ve done, or not done, or how I could have done or not done it any better. My conscience is clear, and perhaps she will come to see what I believe to be the truth of our relationship. No guarantees, though. Sometimes things just . . . fall apart, the theme of 2011 that I’m unlikely to mention in any Emerine-Mix Family Christmas letter.

Evidence in my life of the omniscience of my loving God is that somehow I wandered through the jungle of a an Internet search onto a book by former Fuller Seminary theologian and ethicist Lewis Smedes, whose work on homosexuality and women’s issues I’ve admired. I read something about a little book he wrote called “Learning to Live the Love We Promise,” in which he writes, and writes with tremendous insight and skill, about the costs and rewards of commitment between two people.

I often buy books because I think they’ll minister to others. This one, it turns out, speaks right to me in this season of commitment-gone-boom. If you’ve ever given all you’ve got and then seen it blow up, in any relationship — unlike many contemporary Christian authors, Smedes doesn’t privilege marriage as the only spiritually and emotionally significant connection people make, and eloquently describes both the pain and the joy of his friendships with men and women — read this book. And if you’ve avoided “putting it out there” with others, kept yourself from emotional intimacy with people you know you’d like to really connect with out of fear that it might be too costly, either in the friendship’s success or its failure, read it.

Smedes describes a way of living that is ultimately rewarding — life-giving — precisely because it’s so fraught with risk and pain. I needed his counsel right now; his words are a balm to my raw, grieving soul, and I will periodically offer some of his insights over the next few days. But join me in praising God-all-knowing for gently tossing my way a little paperback I’d never heard of in a time I never thought I’d live through.

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