What happens when relationships are irreparably broken and beyond the reach of reconciliation or grace? Sometimes, they may be over. But sometimes, I have discovered, they can be unaccountably restored.
A foundation of the 12 steps: “God did for me what I could not do for myself.” I deeply appreciate the term “higher power” embraced by 12-step programs of all stripes. It allows everyone, from the atheist to the orthodox, access to the experience of letting go of control and trusting that there may be a force for good, for healing, that can restore us to peace and wholeness. “God” is that higher power for me.
In 1984 I had a friendship blow up over a bad business deal. It was a messy affair, Ieaving me holding a boatload of debt and broken promises that took me years to sort out. I was angry and resentful. For years I could see only what had been done to me not by me. I developed, over time, a strange attachment to my resentment. I wore it as a sacred badge as it continued to burn an ever deeper hole in my soul.
This went on largely unchallenged until my brother Steve, from his deathbed, suggested I needed to examine my role in the whole affair. “Don’t you think it’s time for you to own your part in what happened?” BANG! A bubble burst in my heart and out drained the bile of resentment. Steve stepped in and spoke with the authority of God, my higher power, and I became willing to be reconciled to the irreconcilable. Grace struck!
At Steve’s funeral, a month later, I encountered my ex-business partner. As we stood together I felt a surge of joy and a lightness of spirit. I was finally free!
Another, perhaps more powerful, story, involves historical characters with which most Americans are familiar.
On April 4, 1865 John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. The country lost its leader and the name Booth became inexorably connected to one of its darkest days.
Edwin Booth, John’s brother, was, at the time, one of America’s most acclaimed Shakespearean actors and an ardent supporter of the Union. He had longed been estranged from his younger brother John due to their radically different political views. After the assassination Edwin was forced to abandon the stage, go into hiding, and endure the contempt of a nation in mourning.
He lost his good name, all for something in which he took no part, over which he had no control, and for which there would be no ending. Then God did for him what he could not do for himself. Here is how Robert Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln, recounted what happened:
The incident occurred while a group of passengers were late at night purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor who stood on the station platform at the entrance of the car. The platform was about the height of the car floor, and there was of course a narrow space between the platform and the car body. There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.
Edwin Booth had saved the life of the President’s son in a miraculous reconciling moment that he was to acknowledge for the rest of his life.
God can do for us what we can’t do for ourselves and that is reconcile the irreconcilable, if we become willing for it to happen.
Just a thought…
Pat and Marsha
Copyright © 2018 Patrick J. Moriarty. All Rights Reserved.
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