About a year ago, I walked into my office after my family fell asleep. In the midst of the stillness, I felt prompted to pull a book off my shelf, one that I had not intended to read in the near future. The book is entitled The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World by Miroslav Volf. I opened it up and dove in, not knowing how would apply to my situation so clearly.
This book is about how we remember our experiences of wrongs done. Volf challenges us that we must remember them "rightly", that is we must actually understand them truthfully and honestly, not making them more nor less than what they are. Rightly also means that we see the wrongs done in the context of the whole community, not just from the perspective of the victim. The victim does not exist in seclusion. At the very least, our memories of our experiences of conflict connect us.
What stood out to me is the fact that we must remember rightly the nature of the pain we experience in the conflict before we can move forward to healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation. It occurred to me that we tend to white-wash our pain and remember wrongly. We enjoy remembering things that are pleasing, but to remember the nature of the conflict rightly requires that we go to the parts of our soul that we don't want to go.
While reading this book, I realized that I had put up with lies and broken promises from a friend, and I had even excused his actions. I failed to see the situation rightly. For me to move forward, I had to deal with the truth that I no longer trusted him because he had proven over and over not to be trustworthy. This broke my heart because I had assumed that he had been a good friend.
Conflict can stop small groups in their tracks. This does not mean that we avoid conflict. The fact is that conflict will come. But too often Christian small group members are professionals at remembering the conflict wrongly. Most often—at least in my experience—people make less of the conflict than it is. They sweep it under the carpet and act like it has not happened. Often this is done in the name of "love."
In other situations, people remember wrongly by making more of the conflict than it deserves. Members blame, accuse, and fight. Sometimes, group members even take this approach in the name of "truth." Of course, they assume that their perspective is THE truth.
Does your group remember "rightly" the nature of the wrongs done in relationships? Most likely, you fall short of this. Almost all do. This is an area of group life about which we don't talk much. Who, after all, wants to talk about conflict? But the fact of the matter is that conflict creates a new opportunity. It creates tension and when there is tension, we have the opportunity to learn something new from the experience. Conflict provides and opportunity for us to become something more whole, something more redemptive because it pulls back the facade and invites us to deal with who we are.
This begins when we "remember rightly" what's going on. Where is the conflict in your life? In your group? How are you remembering? It takes work to remember, to allow yourself to enter into the experience of the conflict. But that's where God is at work. Go there and see what God is doing. Go there and be changed.