I had a fight with my uncle today. He’s an older gentleman, living on his own, and I help him out with errands and doctors’appointments. We’ve always had a rocky time together; sometimes his fears get the better of him, and he turns mean. I’m sure that’s even truer today than it was twenty years ago. However, we’d been getting along well recently, and I had begun to think we were forging a real relationship. I know I had begun to care more about his thoughts and feelings, and I hoped he also cared about mine – not just about the service I can provide him. But today, that wasn’t the case.
I have realized anew, with real disappointment, that he is not capable of relationship, only of roles. That’s all right. I can do that. But it’s not God’s best for us. It’s not grace; it’s law. When we have relationship, we have warmth, give-and-take, vulnerability, risk, hurt, forgiveness, growing trust – in short, intimacy. When we have roles, we do what we are called to do. Love becomes action rather than feeling. Forgiveness becomes general rather than specific. We have unspoken agreements about the lines we are not allowed to cross. We don’t go where we are not invited.
My uncle refused to apologize for the hurt he caused me today, and I am going to let that go. It’s part of the ministry role God has given me in his life right now. If we had a relationship, I would pursue that conversation and that apology, but he has let me know that he is more comfortable with roles. It’s a sacrifice for me to reverse course, and I am glad I wanted something more. But if we are going back to roles, then he must assume his; I will not be insulted or demeaned as part of our interactions as long as he still has control of his rational mind, and he did agree not to speak to me that way again. I will now go back to respect and distance and service. And that makes me sad.
- Is there someone in your life who keeps you in a role rather than a relationship? Have you tried to push past that barrier? If so, what happened?