Tag Archives: Reconciliation

soup with vegetables on white ceramic bowl

Homemade Soup

The telly came on in the middle of a movie.

A mother was instructing her new daughter-in-law. ‘Let me show you how to make a proper soup for my son!’ Her tone was confident, knowing. It exuded warmth and familiarity. But he wasn’t paying attention to any of that. The phrase had opened a window to his past. The aromas of his mother’s kitchen seemed to float into the room.

He and Bea had just married and were visiting his childhood home as a couple for the first time. Mom pulled his young wife into the kitchen.

‘Let me show you a few tricks about how he likes things cooked,’ she said, smiling.

From the next room he could almost see the chill silence covering the room in frost. Bea drowned that offering of love in ice water, holding it down until it suffocated.

When the weekend was over and they motored home, he heard all about it.

‘How dare she do that! As though I don’t know how to cook for you,’ she said.

‘That wasn’t it at all. She was trying to be helpful. Help you love me even better than you do now.’ He smiled and turned to her. She continued to stare out the passenger window.

‘It was insulting,’ she said. ‘She could have asked.’

‘Mothers don’t ask, they tell. Does yours ask?’

No answer.

It was the first salvo in a war that escalated over the years, a war he’d had no idea was coming. His pre-marital expectations did not include this. Bea planted a grudge that day, and watered it and nursed it until it sprang up and choked the life out of any chance Dad and Mom had of getting her to receive their love. It finally grew into a huge tree on which Bea tacked up a sign saying, You don’t truly love me so let’s not pretend.

She painted that declaration in the blood of her own childhood wounds. Will realized too late that Bea had grown up in a conditional family, where love was doled out as deemed earned. They were always all at odds. They were all orphans. They weren’t a family. They were a group of snipers.

Where suspicion reigns, each loving gesture is perceived as a threat. Broken lives take input for insult. Bea’s heart had been broken long before Will had met her. Sadly, he didn’t realize how those broken pieces would be like glass, cutting all who trod on them.

Will’s heart was broken too, although he didn’t learn that until years later. When he did, and began to heal, a rift opened between them. She wanted no part of that healing. And so they drifted apart. He marched toward health, while she slid toward increasing bitterness and isolation.

As their marriage broke down and fell apart, he watched the leaves on her tree of resentment wither and fall off. They littered the ground between them.

In his dreams, after the divorce, he had long conversations with her about much of what had transpired between them. He could speak of his failings and mistakes, but she could not. She had nothing to say to his imagination. Sadly, he realized he never actually knew her. She was unwilling to be known.

Will had acknowledged his own mistakes and the acceptance of each one hurt him badly. He prayed for release and forgiveness, knowing he’d likely never receive it from Bea, even if they ever spoke again.

On a walk years later, a leaf drifted out of an empty sky, landing at his feet. He stooped and turned it over. That settled the matter.

He then straightened and moved forward.

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photo of man laying on sidewalk

Making it Personal

This is part of an on going series about the Ministry of Reconciliation. A three-minute read.

Reconciliation (noun) /ˌrek.ənˌsɪl.iˈeɪ.ʃən/:The process of making two opposite beliefs, ideas or situations agree

Read the entire series

Last year I wrote about some personal cases of poverty and arrived at the idea that while wholesale action is good, retail action is better.

By wholesale I mean pushing for change at all levels, from my neighborhood to the international stage. Large-scale action does bring change, but it’s impersonal and transactional. Counter-intuitively, it doesn’t result in transformational change. It only looks good on the score card.

There’s progress, sure, and I don’t minimize that. The UN World Food Programme reports there are two billion more of us than in 1990, but 216 million fewer of us are going hungry. That’s good news, at least for those of us privileged enough to eat regularly.

But hold that thought for a moment while we stay on this idea of wholesale versus retail.

The British government is engaged in a large-scale assessment of the nation’s food system. The goal is to transform it. The result, intended or no, would be to have us make retail changes (the personal level) because of policy changes (the wholesale level).

Policy can drive behavior, but ultimately only our behavior makes the policy work. The report is worth reading, because it shows in stark terms how we could be much kinder to our own bodies. If we were, we would be kinder to the food system and to the environment.

The facts are clear that those of us with physical conditions exacerbated by poor eating habits (i.e. diabetes, obesity, heart disease) are much more likely to be severely affected by disease. Nowhere have we seen this than in the statistics around Covid-19 fatalities.

Unfortunately, these important markers have been all but drowned out by the constant clamor surrounding the virus (is it still a pandemic?), the daily case counts and death counts, and the political response to all this – as opposed to the public health response.

Without falling too far down that rabbit hole, let’s pull back and take a stark quote from the aforementioned report:

‘At the same time, the virus has shown with terrible clarity the damage being done to our health by the modern food system. Diet-related illness is one of the top three risk factors for dying of COVID-19. This has given a new urgency to the slow-motion disaster of the British diet.’

Did you catch the named culprit? ‘Diet-related illness’. And the result? ‘Slow-motion disaster’. Of course, where there is slow-motion disaster there can also be slow-motion recovery. In all things, be patient. There is no quick fix.

If you are an American reader, don’t be smug. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 94% of covid deaths in the United States involve co-morbitities.

So, we have found another place that needs reconciliation: our relationship with food. Not about growing, marketing, transport or packaging. Rather, what we eat and how we eat. You could say it’s reconciliation with our own bodies.

Unless we are reduced to begging for our meals, what we put in our bellies drives our decision-making about food. It’s not the other way around. If I’m in the habit of loading up on salty snacks or sweet, I develop a yearning for the same. If I eat a more balanced diet, my cravings lessen and I tend to make wiser choices.

As my AA sponsor would say, ‘choices have consequences.’ And nowhere are these more stark than in how we treat ourselves: spiritually, emotionally and physically. The last one is easiest for me to see. I only need to look at the roll around my middle! Only I can change that.

Good news: if I do change that, it can lead to change for others. My retail action feeds into the wholesale. When millions of us do it, meal by meal, day by day, that slow-motion disaster can stop.

Read more in this series.

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hands making a heart

Thoughts on Equality

This is part of an ongoing series about the Ministry of Reconciliation.
A three-minute read.

Reconciliation (noun) /ˌrek.ənˌsɪl.iˈeɪ.ʃən/:The process of making two opposite beliefs, ideas or situations agree

Read the entire series

Two centuries ago a group of Christians from my church in South London were instrumental in ending slavery in the British Empire. Great men and women all: people of bold faith, humility, perseverance and skill. Their desire was for an equitable society.

We are still working on it, but thank God: we are still working on it! We have not given up. Progress is being made. Is it ever fast enough? Of course not. But, who do we remember? Who do we teach about? By and large they are the light-skinned ones.

We celebrate them, of course. But let’s also celebrate the dark-skinned ones: Olaudah Equiano, Mary Prince, Ottobah Cugoano.

Would the light-skinned ones have fed the fire had it not been for the dark-skinned ones who lit the match? I don’t know, but I expect not, or at least not as quickly.

One slogan of the UK abolition movement was, ‘Am I not a man and a brother?’ This remains a relevant question, although we might broaden the language today for more political correctness.

Regardless of all that, the answer from the world of reconciliation is, ‘Yes. Yes you are.’ Indeed we all are, as we’re all made in the image of God, even those of us who don’t currently believe in Him.

I offer this response about reconciliation with humility because I always come from a place of ignorance, whatever the color of your skin, whatever your background. There is much I don’t know and will never know about my dark-skinned friends, simply because I’m a light-skinned friend.

But may I say it: even though the dark-skinned ones have the light-skinned vision broadcast to them endlessly from all corners all their lives, they truly don’t know our lives either.

Many of them are my beloved brothers and sisters, my friends, and in some cases my prayer partners and confidants. But, because the world can categorize us by the color of our skin we did not and will not have the same experiences.

But isn’t that the way of life? Even when I am as like as possible to another person, we are separated by more than skin.

The truth is that I don’t know anyone’s life but my own, not truly. Certainly not someone’s inner life. Not even my wife’s, whom I know better than anyone. ‘For what man knows the things of a man, except the spirit of man which is in him?’ 1 Or put another way, ‘After all, who can really see into a person’s heart and know his hidden impulses except for that person’s spirit?’ 2

I can converse with my dark-skinned friends about racial justice issues all I want. But I will never be able to say truly and fully, ‘I know how you feel,’ or ‘I know how it was.’ Nor can they about me, actually. But we can share matters of the heart: love, fear, joy, pain, anxiety, certainty; hopes, dreams and expectancy; all those invisible, eternal things.3 Those are common to us all.

So let us begin there. Those are our common ground. That’s where our reconciliation begins: in humility and vulnerability.4 That was Christ’s model. God humbled himself to appear in the world as a human being. Divine and living a perfect life, yet vulnerable. As a baby, as a boy, as a man killed brutally and unjustly for the crimes of others. For me. For you. Because of me. Because of you.

As I attempt to approach all these ideas with humility and vulnerability, I should be able to ask the same of you. All of us are equal or none of us is. As for the ignorance I experience? So long as I don’t use it as a shield to avoid my deficiencies, I’ll be all right.

1. 1 Corinithians 2:11
2. 1 Corinthians 2:11 (TPT)
3. 2 Corinthians 4:18
4. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

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