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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Conversation (face to face) (10/07/10)

TITLE: Block or Renew?
By Anita van der Elst


My husband Ed and I reluctantly approach *Boyd and *Francine’s home. We need to have this talk with them but we aren’t eager. A week prior they informed us that they’re hurt because we don’t want to become members of their church. They told us the pastor and his wife are hurt also but don’t want to talk to us about it so they have stepped in. Francine made it clear that she doesn’t feel safe with me in the small group she leads that I’ve attended for over two years and that the other women don’t feel comfortable either. My husband, in his own conversation with the pastor since then, was told he’d prefer Ed not continue in the men’s group as his presence would cause the pastor’s resentment to build.

As frequent visitors at this church my husband and I communicated often that it isn’t our intention to join any church at this time. We’re actively searching for a church home and haven’t found it yet. Any voiced objections to this church have been in private and only in response to Boyd and Francine’s questions. We did feel we’d found a level of connection in the small groups.

Boyd is watching television but when we step up to the porch, he invites us in. Francine joins us in the living room. My heart is pounding and I’m praying silently for wisdom and peace. An hour later I am trembling from the discourse. Boyd has indicated that my husband and I stole from their church because we accepted financial help in a desperate situation nine months earlier. We were told then that it was a gift. Now Boyd remonstrates we should’ve known the church isn’t rich enough to just hand out money like that without some expectation of return.

Unbeknownst to them, we have been sending our tithe specifying that it go to the account that funded us. My husband asks, “Is there any possibility you might want to hear and consider our view point? That there could be a different perspective?”

To our faces the answer is a blunt, “No!”

Francine responds to an email from me a couple days later in which I ask questions about the whole situation, stating that to address them would be nothing more than a “word war” and “accomplish nothing.”

This is a dialogue that blocks relationship.

Disneyland’s Splash Mountain has its laughing place. Well, my shower is my sobbing place. I let the hot spray beat on my face, mixing with the tears I am finally releasing. Almost choking on wails, the dialogue surfaces and revolves in my mind. It hurts to be told that you aren’t welcome in a place where you thought you were safe.

An hour later I am reminded of a soon-to-occur reunion.

For fourteen years, three ladies, my classmates from elementary school and high school, have met yearly for a girlfriend getaway. Various locations have welcomed their annual pilgrimage, the Mecca that draws them a lasting friendship and conversations that see wee hours of several mornings. This year the destination is in southern California, about sixty miles from my home.

Months earlier I received a message from them asking if I’d be interested in joining them for a day.

So it comes about that Lori, Diane, Sue Ann and I stroll through the Botanic Gardens in Encinitas on a recent Friday. Sit on benches and learn how to use our cameras’ timed feature for group snapshots. Pose with topiary. Marvel at purple blossoms encasing bunches of miniature bananas. Experience the serenity of bamboo forests. Give glory to God for the variety and intricacy of all manner of plants.

Seafood lunches at TGI Friday’s refresh us. We sip tea and eat fresh-baked brownies at the time-share condo. Family photos are pulled out as we catch up on thirty-five years since graduation and re-examine earlier years than that.

As we converse, I discover an unbroken connection; one I hadn’t realized was there. Acceptance begun in childhood continues and affirmation comes. Our conversation is seeded with laughter and tears. Sue offers a prayer including for the relationship that is blocked. I feel my heart healing. I tell them that today’s experience was exactly what I needed. Who could’ve known when the plans were made just how much or how timely it would be. Lori comments, “God is better than any travel agent!”

This is a dialogue that renews relationship.

Both kinds are valuable in revealing truth.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Robyn Burke10/21/10
It takes courage to accept the ending of a relationship and just as much, the embracing of one. It takes wisdom to recognize how much better our lives will be in the long run, either way. That is a gift.

You packed a lot of priceless, colorful details into this short story-- not always an easy feat with a word limit! That is a talent.

Told with gritty honesty, and revealing truths. That is good writing.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/24/10
This story just blows my mind. Churches like this is what gives organized religion such a bad name. My cousin experienced something similar. The church she was attending offered her a food basket and she said she wanted to give it to someone in more need. The response was we only give to members of our church! I'm so glad you shared your story and thrilled that Jesus sent you lifelong friends when you needed them most.
Sarah Heywood10/24/10
Ack - I'm so sorry about your experience with this church (assuming this is a true narrative). That is NOT Christianity. But how like God to provide rest in the form of friends when you most needed it! Thanks for sharing - God bless you! And - good writing, too!