I did a pretty good job this year of ignoring it.
I prayed, talked to my counselor, focused on God’s promises about my future, breathed deeply – and the past retreated to the little compartment, right where it belongs. But as soon as the wreaths go up, the Christmas music starts, the malls are jammed with people—I know that little compartment is going to threaten me with opening. That is, the past—the broken relationships—are going to hurt all over again. The holidays always seem to highlight the pain.
As Christmas approaches, I am choosing joyful gratitude for an array of blessings and even refining hardships over the past year. From the hundreds of emails I receive from my readers, I am reminded once again the fragility of relationships and how many of you are hurting this season.
I want to tell you my story—in effort to declare from the highest rooftop that God ALWAYS redeems. The thing about my story is there isn’t a nice bow or a great lesson I’ve learned on “how to restore relationships”. It was messy, still is messy, but I’m seeing tiny fragments of God’s redemption. In the middle of the malls, the traffic, all around me. I want to remind each of you not to give up hope, because God promises to redeem even the messiest, most broken, most beyond repair of relationships.
Three years ago, I was dating my husband and our relationship was clearly a part of God’s bigger story. We grew up down the street from each other, and our love for people and foreign missions took us across the globe to Germany and China. Our relationship started fourteen years later, with emails and Skype calls from Germany to China—and from the beginning was very Christ centered. My mom started a notebook of wedding vendors and advice from her friends—the whole neighborhood thought we were getting married.
And then everything changed. Michael went to ask my dad’s permission, he said “no”, and my parents changed their mind about Michael. No reasons were given, just a blind “respect my authority” command. Fast forward through many meetings with pastors, desperate phone calls, and pleas for reconciliation, my parents declared that they didn’t want to be a part of my life. My dad said I had to choose marriage or them and I chose my dear husband, Michael. I was unwavering in my belief that he was and is the man God chose for me; my parents were steadfast in their belief that God had chosen someone different. We parted ways, not without tears, ripe your heart out conversations, and at times, despair. They missed our beautiful summer wedding day.
I believe in a God of redemption, so over the past three years, I thought redemption would entail my parents deciding to support my marriage, apologize for calling Michael a heathen, or even us just having some semblance of a relationship. But it hasn’t. The stone wall between us hasn’t come down and I’m not sure it will ever be healthy to be in a close relationship with them again.
God hasn’t forced me to be in a very uncomfortable relationship—rather, He’s brought other people into my life to stand in as parents. Michael’s parents have embraced me so deeply, and so richly that I could not ask for more. My best friend’s parents call me their daughter and Michael their son. I don’t want to think of these people as interim parents, but in a way, I think God is giving me exactly what I need to hold unswervingly onto faith that I will see my parents again. It probably won’t have a nice bow and God hasn’t sent me a save-the-date for when it will happen, but I’m basking in gratitude for my heavenly Father who is redeeming ALL things. Will you trust him to redeem your relationships piece by piece in the way He sees fit?
May you find gratitude in the in-betweens of your relationships this season and hope in the promise that God will redeem. I pray you see the redemption in the little joys of God’s blessings around you. He’s a good Dad.
Ruthie Dean is a book marketer at Harper Collins Christian by day and a writer by night. She and her husband Michael call Nashville home. Their first book, Real Men Don't Text, will be in bookstores in 2013. Ruthie writes a relationship blog for women at www.ruthiedean.com.