Crash! I’d slammed down the phone. I could take no more. I’d been pushed too far. While I was trying to be calm and reasonable my ‘contact’ was becoming more and more irrational, excitable, offensive. Both of us were getting over-heated.
Both of us were saying things we didn’t really mean -things we would deeply regret later. Each had had from the other more than we could take –at least for the moment. Discretion is the better part of valour – best to bring the whole ugly business to an abrupt conclusion, before it became any worse!
But what a shock for me, when someone dares to slam down the phone on ME! What has hit me? Self-righteously, I’ve try to justify what I’ve said. There have been times when I’ve felt I was drowning with remorse. Then I’ve wished I’d been more temperate in my language, more understanding and patient.
When I have slammed down the phone I’ve had heart-wrenching thoughts about the one at the other end of the line - impossible, infuriating, unreasonable, true enough, but surely not deserving of such rough treatment!
This vicious breaking communication has created a painful situation, leaving both of us feeling aggrieved, resentful, hurt…. misunderstood. Because friendships mean so much to me this sudden rupture has inflicted upon me a great sense of loss. I’ve felt responsible for the breakdown, guilty for causing so much pain, deep regret I didn't handle the situation better. If I’m honest with myself I’d have to admit I’d added fuel to the fire by hitting back with hurtful words.
Rarely is one person entirely guilty or innocent in such situations. No matter who's responsible, I hate the tension of conflict. I want to be at peace with someone who is dear to me. I’ve wanted the wounds I’ve inflicted or suffered to be promptly healed. How? Only by one of us picking up the phone and re-establishing contact.
For a moment I speculate: can any of you, my gentle readers, ever identify with me …the time-bomb waiting to explode?
To return to the matter of phone-slamming: I wonder how God reacts when I’ve offended Him. Sometimes, when I’ve been exasperated with God - especially when I’ve been blaming Him for all the suffering in the world, in my own life or in the lives of those especially dear to me.
Jonah was one who was outrageously with annoyed with God; he even protested he had every right to complain at the way God had treated him. Jeremiah and Job had the moments of total dissatisfaction with God. Petulantly the Psalmist protested, “Listen to me Oh Lord as I complain,” (Ps. 64. 2).
What a contrast! God never loses patience with us, never breaks off communications. God is like the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. He watches and waits for his wayward son to return. Or like the Good Shepherd who makes the first move to seek out the lost sheep.
God’s love is everlasting; God is always merciful. His love for us is steadfast, not brittle and fickle. While God has the resilience to take the knocks, I lose my cool and slam down the phone on Him! And you……..??????????
In his 2nd Letter to the Corinthians (ch. 5) St. Paul tell us that in Christ God has reconciled the world to Himself, not counting our sins against us. Though He was the injured innocent party, God in Christ made the first move in healing our relationship with Him, damaged by our sins.
And He has given us the ministry of reconciliation. Like Christ, we are to be peacemakers, whether or not we are innocent or guilty.
My musing on my ‘phone-crashing’ has brought me to see that God handles tense, fraught, situations far more positively than I do. I must learn to be like Him and keep the lines of communication open.
And if they have been broken down, then I must again be like God. I must make the first move in repairing the damage –no matter who was responsible for the damage. Like God, I must always be eager to accept an apology. But unlike God, I sometimes have to make peace by taking up the phone and saying, "Sorry."
If I should ever get so exasperated with God that I stop communicating with Him I can only meet Him again in loving friendship, if I stop sulking and start listening and talking to Him. The sooner the better. My petulance harms only me, not Him.
Fr. Isidore Clarke, O.P.