Lent and our need for reconciliation
A couple, married or otherwise, who split up when they have one or more children together is rarely simple. If both want a role in the child(ren)’s life, two persons now going their individual ways must find a means to co-parent and to communicate. Otherwise, even when divorce is obviously the best choice for all involved, the child(ren) will most likely enter adulthood with significantly greater challenges (if not handicaps) and deeper emotional scars.
For about a year and a half, I’ve volunteered as a mediator at the Mediation Center of the Pacific (MCP). Most of the cases that I mediate involve domestic situations: a parent wanting to establish or change timesharing arrangements (what used to be called visitation, but is more appropriately labelled timesharing since both parties are the child(ren)’s parents), custody of the children, division of marital assets/debts in case of a divorce, etc. Although mediation is not therapy, many pastoral counseling skills (e.g., active, empathic listening) apply directly to the mediation process.
Through successful mediation, persons adopt a modus vivendi, an arrangement by which the conflicting parties can peacefully co-exist. This modus vivendi can become a step toward a fuller experience of reconciliation. Illustratively, two persons unable to talk without fighting learn to talk about their child(ren) without fighting, then discover a way to communicate that verges on amicable. They slowly put old animosities aside, maybe forgive the hurt or part of it, with their relationship now shaped by shared goals and concerns for their progeny.
Reconciliation to God and to others is one of the great themes of Lent. That’s prompted some musings about a possible connection between reconciliation and mediation. The two are certainly not synonymous. Yet, Christians too frequently conceive of reconciliation as an event, not as a journey or a process over time. By way of contrast, Twelve Step programs describe reconciliation as an iterative process, with each move through the steps reconciling the person more fully to others and to the person’s higher power. In Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, although the Father never held a grudge, the son for a long time was unwilling to amend his life, unable to perceive his father’s enduring love and therefore afraid to return home. The change within the son, born of desperation, required time to mature and to develop.
With whom do you need or wish to take a step toward reconciliation this Lent?