When was the last time you applied for something that required someone else's approval? Whether it was a part-time job, the beginning of a career out of college, or something else, all of those start with you initiating the process, waiting, then being accepted or denied. The waiting period is the awkward in-between, and there's certainly something to be said about it.
I remember nearing the end of college and thinking Teach For America was something I should pursue. I started the application, and there began a process of waiting for someone else to give me a stamp of approval.
If I remember correctly there were three stages, and at each level you could be eliminated. As I made it past each one, there were a few thoughts going through my head, which I believe are true for any situation like this:
"Why do I really want this? What would I be willing to do or give up to attain it? What will my new normal look like once I've attained it? How will I handle the rejection if I don't? What is plan B?"
Any scenario where you could be rejected requires some element of vulnerability. You're putting yourself on the line, potentially to be shut down. And I was. I made it through the whole process, and one evening as I was sitting on the patio of my college apartment, I got a generic email explaining that I had not been chosen.
It was disappointing at the time, but in hindsight it's a really good thing it didn't work out for me. There was clearly a plan for my life I couldn't see at the time, including years of worship ministry, pursuing my wife in marriage, and the life we would eventually build together here in Birmingham.
The process of waiting was hard, though. The unanticipated answer was hurtful. But I have never been more grateful for how my life played out since then, now that my big-picture scope is a little more zoomed out.
I think of forgiveness and reconciliation in a similar way. Forgiveness requires one person, yet reconciliation requires the acceptance of another. You can choose, as the offended party, to forgive every single day, but you still have to wait for the reconciliation you desire.
Forgiveness is putting yourself on the line. It's saying, "Here's a portion of myself that I'm giving to you, will you accept?" It's often in the context of the other party not asking nor deserving, which makes the reconciliation all the more beautiful when it happens.
The sad truth is that many times we forgive, or "apply" for reconciliation, and then we enter a waiting period. The other person has the choice to accept or deny. In the meantime, it can be grueling, while we wonder about the outcome.
But much like my Teach For America situation, the process makes you stronger. The outcome isn't always what we expect, but it's always good for those that trust there is deep purpose for our lives, even in the awkward in-between, even in the outcomes we didn't plan.
Often times, the awkward in-between can be the toughest part of the process. Initiating the application can be exciting, because there's a lot of hope on the front end. The outcome, when good, is worth celebrating. When bad, you at least know what you're having to process. But the waiting period, the in-between, can be ridden with worry, doubt, anxiety, insecurity...
So how can we persist through the awkward in-between? Why should we?
I've never been huge on sports, but there was one phrase that always stuck with me after all the years of playing baseball as a kid: "back to the basics." When you're in a slump, when you can't figure out what's wrong, go back to the basics:
Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, died for the offenders, and rose from the grave for an undeserving people to have life. He acted first when he gave himself as a sacrifice. He loved first, before we ever loved him. He stooped from his throne to become a man, knowing many would reject him. His example, and his promise to be with us gives us the power to go first, to forgive, to seek reconciliation with the undeserving offenders. And we can trust that a day is coming, when all wrong will not only be made right, but will be undone. Reconciliation, in the grandest sense, is coming.