A loved one recently texted to me, “no more,” adding that they “didn’t care or want to talk any more.” They had reached a point – the point – where they just didn’t have the patience to connect with me whenever the stars might align to do so. To their way of thinking I was just too busy for conversation, spontaneous or otherwise.
I apologized. I owned that certainly over the past few weeks I have been otherwise occupied and busy. I didn’t make excuses but I did try to explain that I had intentionally carved out me-time to take care of a long overdue ‘to-do’ list and to begin the process of discerning new vocational settings – of landing a new job. I texted,
So sorry to miss you tonight – I know I’ve been out of touch for the past couple of weeks – been holed up with church biz and trying to get a grip on healthy daily habits food, sleep, excercise wise- so I’ve been going to yoga a lot, spending time in prayer and trying to write and get caught up on stuff calendar wise through the end of November – I hope we can touch in and talk tomorrow or Friday xo
My loved one pushed back,
Forget it. I am fed up with everyone’s busy schedules. Really forget it.
Ouch. Then they wrote,
What is everyone here waiting for to connect? When things are perfect?
I thought it was an opening and responded,
…a good thing to talk about when we talk – hope we will in the next couple of days – love you
To which I received this reply,
Stop being overly sweet and understanding…just forget it – it doesn’t matter.
I didn’t reply back. And we haven’t talked. If they were now indifferent, how to move forward? The text-conversation hung with me hovering in the background like a shadow in my study, reading, praying time (searched for a Word all week in the lectionary readings – none to be found until this morning) in the yoga studio, in my ‘church biz’ administrative work, reminding me that this relationship was wounded.
My loved one is angry – not just with me, but with others – others they have loved or have an ongoing relationship with and find connecting and conversation on a regular basis hard to come by. In the language of therapy, anger = hurt. If you feel ‘hurt,’ if your feelings are hurt, if you feel dissed or dismissed, you’re angry. Maybe with the person, maybe with yourself – but you are angry. And if conversation about that anger is cut off – ‘forget it, it doesn’t matter,’ there’s little hope of resolving, let alone healing.
Conversation is essential for relationships to thrive. Cutting off conversation intentionally or not, signals the end. That was the Word that finally came to me this morning in the Old Testament reading from Job.
We’ve been reading Job all week and most of us know his story well, but it was at today’s opening verse that the Lord sent me the Word I needed to hear to attend to the hovering shadow of the relationship I had injured.
Job, as angry as he was with God, as justified as we think he might have been to be angry with God, keeps the conversation going. Just look at how he hangs in there with God, engaging, provoking even, God to keep talking,
‘I loathe my life;
I will give free utterance to my complaint;
I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. Job 10:1-2
Think of how easy it would have been for Job to have sent a different text message, something like this, instead:
‘Forget it, God, you just don’t care, it doesn’t matter…’
That would have ended the conversation right there. No more headache for Job trying to figure out this or that, or ‘why,’ all these bad things had happened to him and his life. Instead, Job stays in conversation. And conversation keeps him in relationship with God.
I like how theologian and writer, Walter Brueggemann in his book, Finally Comes the Poet, writes about Job his healthy relationship with the Lord, God:
Job pushes his attack on God as far as a voice in Israel dare push. In chapter 9 Job asserts not only that God is unrelaible, but is in fact a liar (20-22). Job never pushes to God’s nonexistence, for then he would quit speaking and be reduced to silence. Muteness is practical atheism. Job keeps believing and speaking; he lives for the dispute. Likely that is why in ancient Israel there are no atheists. The conversation of faith is the best action in town. Job is characteristic of Jewishness that finds dispute a viable, crucial form of faith. Job delineates his experience of negation, of God’s absence and silence, of God’s refusal to deal with his issues. Job yearns most for an answer, any answer, because he prefers harsh dialogue to an empty monologue. (Finally Comes the Poet, pg 61, 62)
Muteness is practical atheism – humorously depicted in Dan Piraro’s panel from Bizarro, to the right – no conversation to be had, nothing believed in to be discussed.
This goes for personal relationships, too. When we cut off the conversation, resign ourselves to the dispute and don’t deal or talk about it with each other, we – I – am basically saying, “I don’t believe in this relationship anymore.” It’s a blank pamphlet – an empty thing. There’s no there, there.
But I do believe in the relationship – so I will keep speaking and asking and trying. Avoiding each other, “forget it, it doesn’t matter” ain’t right.
Cutting this short. Gotta make a phone call.
Praise God from whom all conversation, angry and loving, and blessings, flow.