Thursday, June 01, 2017

Completing the Circle by Eleanor Shepherd

                This month our good friends are celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary and I have been invited to speak at the event.  This is a huge honour for me and the story is a complicated one.  We were good friends when we were in our late teens and early twenties.  One thing we sometimes did was double date, going to a movie or to a concert as four rather than as two. 
                  Our friends married two years before we did and at the time of their wedding a misunderstanding developed between us.  Hurt feelings, not dealt with smoldered into negative thoughts and actions and with the passage of time, the relationship turned to embers because of our failure to nurture it.  We all had busy lives, raising families and involved in our church activities.  We were no longer part of the same congregation and we moved to different cities, so it was easy to let the friendship lapse.  However, we were aware that something was not right in our spirits.
                  A decade passed and then another.  We found ourselves back in the same city and again members of the same congregation.  Although the unpleasant memories were buried, there was still a strain in our relationship.  If memory serves me right, there was one time during the first decade after the rupture, that we went to our former friends and awkwardly tried to make amends, but at that stage none of us were ready for reconciliation.

                  Now it seemed there might be a glimmer of hope.  As we had occasion to be thrown together in various projects and activities, we discovered that they were pretty fine people, despite the way that we had demonised them in our minds.  At the time I was searching for a prayer partner, as this was something that I valued for my own spiritual well-being.  As I prayed about this, the name of my friend came to mind and I could not shake it. So I asked her if she would be willing to meet regularly with me to pray. She agreed. We spent meaningful times together in prayer.
                  We were transferred to Europe with our work, and before we left, my friend and I went out for lunch together.  At that time, she humbly apologized for her part in the initial misunderstanding.  Although I had spent many years blaming her for what I thought she had done, in hearing her apology, I realized that the fault was not all hers.  I had not acted in the way I ought to have acted either and our falling out was as much my fault as hers.  I realized what an incredible treasure she was to have as a friend.
                  From that day, our relationship took on a new depth.  There are few friends that I value as much as this friend who reached out to me and enabled me to experience the joy of forgiveness and reconciliation.  So you can imagine the pleasure that it will be for me to honour her at their 50th anniversary celebration. 

                  As I shared this story as part of my journey, with my spiritual director this week, she reminded me that all that we have learned through the years, has enabled us to handle things so much better now.  If, when we were young, we had been able to talk with each other honestly about the issues that caused the break in our relationship, we would have been spared those years of negative feelings toward each other.  I agree.

Word Guild Awards
However, without the tangles, I may never have realized the depth of grace and humility that my friend possesses, if she had not dared to reach out to me the way she did.  I may never have become aware what a gift she offers in her friendship with me. What was intended for evil, God turned to good for us.
Word Guild Awards
Eleanor Shepherd from Pointe Claire, Quebec has more than 90 articles published in Canada,  France,  the U.S.A., Belgium, Switzerland and New Zealand. Thirty years with The Salvation Army in Canada and France including ministry in Africa, Europe, Haiti and the Caribbean furnished material for her Award winning book, More Questions than Answers, Sharing Faith by Listening. Eleanor works as a pastor in Montreal with The Salvaton Army.


Peter Black said...

Eleanor, thank you for your transparency in sharing. What a relief for you and your friend as the bitter elements of hurt and misunderstanding dissolved and were displaced by the sweetness of grace and restored fellowship in the love of God our Father . . . Marvellous! ~~+~~

Glynis said...

Wise Counsel, Eleanor. And like Peter just said, your transparency is a good thing. Enjoy writing the 'speech'.

Yvonne said...

Your message is brilliantly conveyed with such grace and truth sister! Even our so-called "failures" can be transformed by God for His glory! Had you not been in conflict with your friend, you would have never experienced forgiveness and reconciliation first hand! He has taught you much! Thanks for sharing such a positive experience!

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