When I first came to Australia, I was asked by my congregation to work in our childcare centre. To do it effectively, I needed to get the Australian early childhood qualifications. It was back then, at TAFE, when I first met the person who is my best friend ever since. She was the one who approached me when I was eating lunch on my own (not because of being anti- social but being embarrassed because I could not speak English fluently yet and could not mingle with other fellow students). She was the one who asked me a million questions about the consecrated life and what it means to be a nun. A few months after we met, she told me, that shortly before I joined the group (which was a week later than everybody else, after the course already begun) she was having some hard time in her life and while being surrounded by the people who were not very nice to her, she prayed to God. She told Him: maybe, if ordinary people are not so nice, maybe you should send me a nun friend. A few days later, I walked into the classroom. God has a sense of humour and sometimes answers our prayers literally!
As we progressed in our study, we were learning about each other: finding the common interest in being creative, passionate about working with children, loving food and enjoying cooking. When Polish and Indonesian meet, there is so much to talk about and to discover.
One time, we were exchanging some details about our study, and I totally misunderstood what was the major task in the assignment, which turned into an argument because I insisted on how I understood it. My friend followed what I said and consequently, we both had problems with passing our teamwork assignment on which we were working for a while. When I realised what happened – that I was wrong and how it disadvantaged my friend, I apologised the best I could and…. I wanted to move on. I will never forget the lesson I learnt that day. She simply said: It’s ok, I forgive you, but… I need some time to get over it. In my head was still guilt and what I thought: a sincere willingness to make up for my stubbornness, but I felt things are still not OK between us. She added then: You want me to move on because you want to feel better, but I need some time to feel better first. And she was right. I will never forget that lesson. Even in friendship sometimes we not only support but also hurt each other.
Friends fight, couples fight, people in communities fight. Having an argument does not need to show animosity. Having different opinions is healthy and, while challenging, can be a significant source of humility for all of us. We are not always right. Most of the time we are wrong. And it is not even about being right or wrong, but about being open enough to hear other people’s opinions instead of defending our own point of view or understanding of things around us. It is about the mutual respect to disagree and listening to one another. It is about accepting others and being accepted by them.
Mutual respect means that we need to accept that we all have different times for healing from our hurts. Asking for forgiveness is not only an act of verbalising our remorse by a simple act of saying “sorry”, but also stepping back and allowing the other person to build the trust again despite the unpleasant or painful memories of the small or big events which broke the good relationship.
And the same is true in our relationship with God. It is OK even to fight with God – like Jacob from the Old Testament (Story of Jacob starts at 4:35, but all 8 minutes video is worth watching)
Fighting with God can even leave us with a visible sign like Jacob’s broken hip. God might like to teach us an unexpected lesson. God would want us to stop and reflect on our own actions. He wants to show us the areas which still need His love before we will be truly able to say that we understand each other as best friends do.
Today, as you read this reflection, I invite you to a prayer of thanksgiving for friends who taught you lessons in your life. I also invite you to pray for a friend if you need one. In God’s time, we always receive what we need. Instead of giving up–we need to ask God and wait. He will take care of us. He always does.
Sr Grace Roclawska csfn is Head: Formation for Mission for the Diocese of Parramatta and a Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
This article was originally published on Sr Grace’s personal blog, Seeking God’s Grace. Republished with permission.