Things have calmed a bit this week. I met with some of the same people again and gave them a chance to clarify themselves. I also apologized to the guy I came close to killing last week and I gave him some room to save face.
Why so nice? This is a power struggle I can't win outright. However, if we can be calmer, perhaps I can put a more systematic process in place that will allow us to work out our conflicts. And if most folks are reasonably honest, we can still work together.
And if we work together better, then those who are truly malevolent will be revealed more quickly and clearly.
The group had a chance to reassure me. "Those people who got mad at your wife will get over it. Don't worry. We'll get them back."
I appreciated the reassurance, but I straightened some things out in their thinking, I hope.
"Misunderstandings happen even when people are trying to do good things," I said. "I understand that and expect it. But I also expect people to come to me promptly to give me the opportunity to clear things up. If this had been done, we would not be having this meeting now.
"You assure me they'll get over it. But nobody meant to hurt them in the first place. However, somebody set out to hurt my wife and me. Of all the people referred to here, my wife was the one who was attacked. The difference is that we're grown ups. We won't go tell forty of our closest friends about this. And we won't stop serving even in a church that has not shown much caring for my wife.
"She has been sick. Her mother died. And she had to move to this new place where few people have come to know her. Yet she has continued to serve here because it was needed."
The room was stony silent at that moment. They looked sick and a bit betrayed, as if I had not adhered to some implied rules of engagement.
Clinically, I can tell you we have identified where this group needs to grow up. I know that some of them feel bad about how my wife was treated. Most of them feel chastised, like they've been scolded. But none of them have said the necessary words of reconciliation.
I have been charged by God to care for these people. Some of them I have grown to love. But at the moment, I sort of hate them, too.