William Ury sits perched on the edge of his seat.
As he talks with one of the Summit facilitators, I listen closely to what he has to say. I can’t help it. His energy and passion for conflict resolution is so engaging. He calls the point we are at in history “the moment of the human family reunion” and describes how we must learn to live with one another.
Ury talks about his role in major negotiations for peace around the world; and I can tell he loves his work. He tells a story about how he chose not to react to a frustrated Hugo Chavez who was yelling in his face for thirty minutes, in the midst of negotiations with his opponents, just prior to Christmas in 2002. There was only so long Chavez could carry on his rant; and once he reached the end of it, he was quiet and then asked Ury what he should do. I am rather impressed at the calm he describes.
He offers the idea that the biggest obstacle in conflict is me. I think about it. Isn’t it when I am being stubborn or focusing on my own injured feelings or just plain angry that I can’t begin to think about having an adult conversation in the midst of conflict? Ury invites us to “go to the balcony”— to get some perspective and separate from the problem. Yes. I’ve practiced this a few times and it always goes better than those times I just can’t seem to choose it.
As Ury talks, I file away these nuggets to remember the next time my feelings are injured or my husband comes to me with a problem we need to work out.
We near the end of his allotted speaking time when the facilitator asks about Israel and Palestine. He wonders if there can ever be peace between these peoples, asking Ury for some perspective. He says something profound that I have been pondering ever since:
“Some conflicts are so difficult they can only be healed by a story.”
The part of me that knows the way my own faith has deepened because of training in God’s story relaxes into this idea. This makes perfect sense to me.
When we believe a story we live it.
I know what it is to train in a story, to believe something more fully—to go from head knowledge to practiced knowledge of the heart.
As I trained in God’s story this spring, I came to a better understanding that God wants us to trust Him. A healthy relationship is built on trust; and choice is the laboratory for trust. When a choice is made, trust is either kept or broken. In the garden, the tree of knowledge of good and evil was the vehicle around which trust would develop. Adam and Eve were invited by their Creator to trust him and choose loving obedience and relationship by not eating from it. When man chose not to trust we were separated from God; and our relationship with Him was broken.
Yet, it is through a shared story with man, God redeems us and restores our relationship to Him.
Sandra L. Richter describes the story succinctly,
“In Eden all humanity was welcomed into relationship with God, with the Fall, that relationship was broken. With Noah, one man and his immediate family reenter God’s plan. With Abraham, an extended family that eventually becomes a tribal confederacy is welcomed home. With Moses, an entire nation experiences the grace of God. Finally with Jesus, as in Eden, every son of Adam and daughter of Eve is offered the opportunity for relationship with their Creator” (Epic of Eden, p.133).
For me, understanding this idea of trust led to practical applications in one of my family relationships. I realized that in order for there to be a real relationship with this person, they would need the opportunity to choose it. This meant having some conversations about boundaries with others in my family to allow for the possibility. It also meant doing something that was hard to do, for the possibility of something better.
Believing God’s story changed me. It continues to change me. Because of this, I suppose, I shouldn’t be surprised that story might change others too.
Ury describes the tradition of hospitality and kindness to one another that is rooted in a common ancestor for Israelis and Palestinians—Abraham. He talks of a need to build a new story that is rooted in an old one.
Is it possible to begin weaving our lives together from a common place—like a shared ancestor, Abraham—and find reconciliation by creating something new together that honors both the Israelis and Palestinians?
Could it be possible that it is through being shaped by God’s story, which we all share, that we will find reconciliation?
Is it possible that by finding our identity as God’s children we will care about the well being of our brothers and sisters and seek peace with them?
Is that the kind of story powerful enough to bring people together?
I think so.
Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we experience the reconciliation that comes through God’s story. As we train in His story may we be changed by it in ways that leave us ever speaking of His goodness. May we be the kind of people who allow God to work in us to pursue reconciliation in our own broken relationships. May we share of the availability of His reconciliation for all.