"Having a blog is like wandering around your house naked with the windows open; it's all very liberating until someone looks in the window. However, while being caught unawares is one thing, it is quite another to stroll up to the window and press your naked, flabby body against the coolness of the glass in a hideous form of vertical prostration for all the world to see..." These posts are the smudges that are left behind on the window.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Wives and Sweethearts

In the movie Master and Commander, captain Jack Aubrey, played by Russell Crowe, is hosting a dinner in the great cabin of his ship. In the cabin are the ship’s officers and a few select guests, all male, ranging in age from about 14 to 70. As is the custom at these meals, after which they have consumed copious amount of food and wine, there is a series of toasts. 

Captain Jack stands up and says, "Gentlemen a toast."
The room goes quite.
"To wives and sweethearts..."
"Aye aye" the men murmur in agreement as they raise their cups.
Then, with a whimsical note in his voice he adds, "...may they never meet!"
To which all the men break out in raucous laughter.

When I was younger - much younger - before meeting my wife, I went out with a girl for about 2 years. Back then I'm afraid I was a bit of a jerk, and I didn't treat her very nice. It  wasn’t really intentional, I was just stupid. Over the years I have often felt bad about this, and thought that if I ever had the chance, I would apologize to her. Once or twice I even went so far as to make a half hearted attempt to find her, but without knowing her married name it seemed impossible.

Last year about this time I was putting the boat away for the winter. It takes a couple of days, and during my off time I was reading NT Wrights book, "The Lord and His Prayer". It was probably during the section on “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” I realized that if I really believed all this stuff then I HAD to find her and apologize. But it wasn’t a sort of I-should-get-around-to-doing-that-some-day kind of feeling. I was driven. I haven’t felt that compelled to do something for longer than  I can remember.

Given that I have a tremendous grasp of the obvious, shortly after starting my quest it dawned on me that I was going to get myself into a lot of trouble if my wife found out. So I told her.  She was incredibly understanding and wonderfully supported me through the whole thing. 

It took about 3 weeks of obsessive searching before I found her, including contact with her brother-in-law, which I will elaborate on in a bit. We exchanged a couple of emails and even talked on the phone for a few minutes. She was very gracious and did extend forgiveness. 

Some might be wondering at this stage why I am telling this story. I mean, ultimately, it doesn't cast me in a very good light. But there are actually three reasons.

The first reason is that if you believe that being a Christian is about living out the kingdom of god, that we are all called to be imitators of Christ, that “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is more than just a phrase you say during communion, then I tell this story to encourage you. This whole story could have gone sideways and ended very badly. I understand that, I was prepared for it, and I’m glad it didn’t. But even if it had gone sideways, it was still the right thing to do. Because ultimately I knew I had done all I could to bring reconciliation. 

The second reason is related to the first. At one point my quest lead me to her brother-in-law who, it turns out, is a minister.  I explained my situation to him, via email, as best I could without revealing too much, and appealed to his pastoral instincts to put me in touch with her. To a certain extent I understand his reasoning, but despite the fact that there were ways for me to get my message to her without knowing where she was, he refused. Using such platitudes as “leave it in gods hands” and “it probably means more to you than her” etc. So my second reason for the story is to let you know that even if you do try to do the right thing, there are those within the religious community that will oppose you. They may even be leaders in the church - people who should be leading by example. And you should be prepared for that.  

The third reason is to start a conversation. Not necessarily about my particular circumstance, but about what it means to be a Christian. I think that if we take this Christian thing seriously we need to start talking to each other, and exploring what that means. We need to talk about our successes and our failures because that’s how we really learn. I think that Christianity has gone so long, and strayed so far, from it’s original intent, that we don't know what it means anymore, and we need each other to rediscover and explore the forgotten arts of christianity - arts such as humility, forgiveness, compassion, acceptance and many others. 

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