When Trust is Established

By Francis Frangipane

Wounded in Pursuit of Oneness
The Bible says, "Pursue peace with all men." (Heb. 12/14). Pursue means we aggressively take the initiative to make things right. It means we act on behalf of Heaven rather than allow another's anger to serve the purpose of hell.

However, we must be realistic. When we reach out to a deeply offended person, they will likely be repulsed by our first efforts. Scripture tells us, "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle" (Prov. 18:19). If a person has been hurt, they will need trust to be restored, and this process of initiating trust can actually be painful to both parties. A wounded person may lash out. You may feel like the price of restoring the offended person's trust is simply too great to pay.

Let me share an insight I received about the basic nature of relationships and reconciliation. My wife and I were "bird-sitting" our oldest daughter's pet conure. A conure is about half the size of a parrot with similar coloring. However, this creature was hostile. Each time I'd touch the cage, it would squawk and try to bite me. After several initiatives at being nice, I realized, "Who needs this? If I'm going to be attacked, I can be attacked at church." So inwardly I made an evaluation that we had been given a "killer conure." Obviously, I concluded, this bird came from the wrong side of the tracks.

My wife, however, decided she was going to love this bird. Even though it was just as aggressive toward her as it was with me, Denise relentlessly extended herself toward little India. Each time she fed it by hand, the bird attacked, taking chunks of skin from her fingers with each bite. Denise would yell in pain, then instantly return to talking softly, reaching into the cage with food. After a week, the bird finally began to relax. Her survival instincts, based on my wife's gentle response to being attacked, convinced India that my wife was not a predator, but a friend. Soon, it permitted Denise to reach into its cage without attacking her; a couple more days and I discovered this aggressive little finger-eater perched lovingly upon my wife's shoulder, its little round head snuggled warmly against her neck, cooing in her ear.

Denise won the heart of this little bird: it loved, because she first loved it. You see, the problem with the bird was not aggression, but fear. My wife allowed herself to be wounded so trust could be established; when wounded, she did not retaliate. She won the heart of this little bird one wound at a time.

As I watched this little drama unfold, I saw something basic, yet profound, concerning God's relationship with us. Trust is not an accident; it is the result of love that pays a price.

Isn't this the way of the Lord with our own hearts? He came to us, yet we repeatedly wounded Him. Instead of retaliating, Jesus prayed, "Father forgive them." He proved over and over again that His love was safe, that He was not our enemy.

So often He shows us mercy; even when we rebel and sin, He works to restore us to Himself. It is His kindness, the Scriptures say, that lead us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). He repeatedly shows Himself trustworthy, merciful and loving. He knows that, in time, we will come to rest in His goodness. And as we do, we let Him reach into our cage; we climb upon His hand, and He carries us on His shoulder.

As He has been to us, so He wants us to be toward others, even those who may appear hostile and alienated from us. Paul tells us, "Love suffers long." (1 Cor. 13:4 NKJV). We must be willing to let ourselves be wounded, even repeatedly if necessary, in pursuit of healing relationships. We must prove, not just in word but in deed, that our love is real and our hearts are trustworthy. Whether we face divisions in families, churches or in the racial conflicts we see today, only when trust is established, can healing begin.