Barton and 51 acquaintances share ownership and use of a gorgeous sailboat. One week a year, they each get to take this beautiful home with sails wherever they want to go. Sometimes a few of them join together and spend two weeks, three weeks, even a month out at sea.
One dark night when Barton is sailing, the boat starts to sink. He doesn’t know why. He does everything in his power to prevent it, but it’s beyond what he can do to keep it afloat. Reluctantly, he abandons ship and watches it go down. He survives unscathed, other than the deep-seated emotional trauma of his loss.
But that’s not the end of it. Miraculously, the boat survives. It’s raised up, and repaired by experts. When it’s returned to Barton and his 51 partners, it’s actually in better shape than it was before it went down. As is often the case, this trial revealed flaws which were eliminated or reduced in the repairs which got it seaworthy again.
Time passes. Lots of time. Years, in fact.
And Barton never sails again.
Folks ask, “How come you never go sailing anymore? It was such a part of your life.”
He replies “The boat sank.”
Now, they’ve been on it recently with acquaintances and know that it’s sailing just fine. They say so.
He replies, “No, it sank.”
No matter what anyone says, he insists that that boat sank.
He’s stuck at the moment of his greatest personal loss in this relationship, and never seems able to move past his own pain and accept that the boat is not only afloat, but better than ever.
Now, while it’s rational to be cautious about sailing on a boat that sank out from under you, does it make sense to pretend that its sinking was the last thing that happened? Of course not.
And yet, when someone makes a huge, faith-shaking mistake and we choose not to forgive, that’s exactly what we’re doing.
We believe that, that day, they sank, never to be seen again. We don’t know who that is walking around in their body, but when someone says “Have you talked to them?” our response, perhaps not verbal, but emotional, is, “No, they sank.”
Shipwreck, literal or metaphorical, isn’t always final.
Find someone who sank but, miraculously, was salvaged and repaired, and take them for a spin. You may be surprised how much sturdier a craft is once it’s been properly shaken down and fitted out after a shipwreck.