The Gift of Reconciliation

Ellen Lu

By Jessica Portwood, SPU Graduate Student


As I’ve talked with kids as a volunteer chaplain at King County’s Juvenile Detention Center, I’ve heard countless stories filled with details so appalling that I have a hard time even imagining them.

The pain and the brokenness in the faces of the kids I meet often feels heavy and lethal. In many regards, I come from a different world than most of the kids there. I grew up in the suburbs of the South with a loving family and more privilege than most, while the majority of these kids know a childhood marked by hateful judgments and harsh abandonment.

Yet I am finding more and more that these kids and I need each other. We need the gift of one another’s presence, complete with the reality of our differences and the beauty of our commonality — a commonality that reminds us that we are all God’s children in great need of his love and reconciliation, both to himself and to each other. Our meetings are a costly endeavor on both sides; they demand us to surrender our time, vulnerability, pride, and assumptions.

I think our tendency is to avoid reconciliation — and sometimes even run from it with a pressing immediacy — because reconciliation implies that we must give something up. And we assume that we necessarily lose when something is relinquished. In our consumer-driven society we constantly weigh the costs and benefits of our decisions, whether we realize it or not. But I am not convinced that a comparison of pros and cons is an appropriate way to approach reconciliation. Instead, I am finding that the blessing I receive and the cost I forfeit are more harmonious than they seem.

What we surrender in reconciliation and the pain we feel as a result are as much a part of the gift as the joy and the reward we find through the process. And really, I’m discovering that the further I enter into the gift of reconciliation, the more difficult it is to distinguish the sorrow from the joy, the pain from the glory. They’ve somehow all become part of the same beautiful, messy, God-given blessing that I can’t resist. They all play a role in God’s reconciliation as he brings us into the fullness of who we were created to be and also teaches us how hope for that fullness in one another.

This recognition blurs the lines of harsh dichotomies we oft assume, and it gives me freedom to ask the questions that loom in my heart. Rather than just asking God why he allows the suffering, I can also ask God why he has gifted us with such fullness and joy. I am invited to discover God’s movement in this world and ask how I can participate.

It hurts to enter into the pain of those around us, and it hurts to let others into the depth of our own pain. However, as we seek each other out, facing our own depravity, we receive a profound blessing — the blessing of reconciliation that draws us nearer to our Creator and nearer to each other.



Owen SalleeJessica Portwood is a master of divinity student at SPU with a fierce love for her family and friends. She also delights in strong coffee, drive-thru car washes, and laughter of every variety. She believes God is restoring all things and wants to spend her life being part of the process.


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