Have you ever been in a relationship or meeting or class where whatever you said was wrong?
I'm in one of those places with someone I have known a long time...and loved for a long time.
The person is hurting. Feeling cut-off. And whatever I say turns out to be wrong.
Words I mean to be gracious are experienced as judgemental.
Words I mean to be empathetic are interpreted as critical.
It's a helpless feeling for me. There is the intent of the heart, but the words are proving inadequate. Like telephone lines that have been knocked to the ground by strong winds and falling limbs, my words are sent out but the message of the heart gets lost.
And I know it is a helpless feeling for her. She is feeling desperate, cut off, isolated, and in need of support - and whatever I offer feels like another weight. Another indication that she doesn't have anyone she can turn to.
So what do you do? Paul, in Romans 1st Corinthians 14:1, says "follow the way of love."
Here is what I have been reduced to doing:
1. Saying that I love her. That's it. Anything more somehow goes off in the wrong direction. Like a driver whose car is on ice, and no matter which direction he turns the steering wheel, the car ends up clipping the pole and ending up in the ditch. So I just keep saying, "I love you."
2. Praying for her. I am giving her to God. Maybe God can sort things out. Maybe God can help her hear the love behind my words. Maybe God can help me learn to use words that "get through." In the 1st chapter of 2nd Corinthians, Paul says (:9) he not relying on himself but on God "who raises the dead." Sometimes God gets through when we can't. Sometimes God sends someone else who can get over the defensive walls another person has constructed so carefully. I am giving this person to God. (I do that with people in the church who only seem to be irritated by my best efforts to lead and to love.)
3. Keeping the door open. I'm not a big believer in burning bridges. Writing other people off once and forever. Jesus, in Luke 18, has a conversation with a rich man who refuses to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. The man fails the invitation to be free and healthy in God, but Jesus doesn't write him off forever. Doesn't tell him never to come back. So I do my best to keep the door open...allow for the possibility that the relationship may recover. Grow. Head off in a more healthy direction. Some people say "I'll never send any more cards" or "I won't call that person until they call me first." Not me. I'll keep calling (now and then). I'll keep sending cards. I'll keep letting her know I love her. But I'll not force her to deal with me. The door is open.
Sometimes whatever you say is wrong.
And all I am left with are the words, "I love you."