by Holley Gerth
The news came one fall afternoon. The leaves had just started acting like that neighbor woman who always wore the plain housecoat until showing up at the block party in the audacious dress everyone talked about for weeks. Reds and oranges and flashes of gold. Perfume bittersweet as the edge of a burnt marshmallow.
I was driving to my in-laws’ house when I heard the news. I wanted to push the gas pedal into the floor until it snapped and I hurtled like a loose bull down the highway. I wanted to slam the brakes so hard my tires would write my broken heart on the pavement in ugly skid marks.
I did neither. Instead, I just kept going. Isn’t that the way with us? But inside me something invisible and fragile and essential had shattered. Trust. A friend had hurt me in a way I’d never expected. Normally, I’d just say, “Oh, that’s okay.” I tried. I gave the speech in my mind a thousand times. But it wouldn’t make its way to my lips or fingertips, and I felt panicked. Because I am a woman who has always hated conflict. I would rather go under the drill at the dentist than have an argument. Yes, doctor, I’ll take that root canal over exchanging tense words with someone I love. To avoid conflict I would simply try very hard to be agreeable, and when that didn’t work, I’d pretend to be fine anyway. Please pass the salt and potatoes even though your fork is in my back.
Let me pause and confess I full-out know better. I have a master’s degree in counseling, for goodness’ sake. One of the phrases I remember most from my training is, “Conflict is the way two become one.” I loved that when I heard it and thought it was quite brilliant and beautiful. But it was like loving how caviar looks all glittery and shiny at the fancy party, then realizing what’s on your plate is cold and slimy and you’d rather have the cheap fish sticks the kids are eating, thanks.
I’m starting to understand there are two kinds of knowing in this world. The first is in your head, where everything makes sense and is as pristine as a laboratory. The other is the kind where Scripture says things like, “Adam knew Eve.” We used to blush and giggle in Sunday school at that one because we guessed what it really meant. But aside from the sexy talk, I think what that word knew expresses is experiencing something fully—with not only our minds but also our souls and hearts and bodies. And at the time when this hurt happened, I didn’t know a thing about real, healing conflict on that kind of deeper level.
Holley Gerth, Fiercehearted, Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017. Used by permission.
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