Heaving Around

A wonderful print hangs in my office. The painting is titled "Heaving Around." Maritime artist, Marek Sarba, captures a difficult maneuver in a stormy seascape. The painting "depicts the Saint Andre being made fast to the towing bit of the steam tug ADLER, a maneuver that poses great danger to crewmen and vessels in heavy seas." The disabled freighter is literally being pulled by the tug so it can gain a more favorable position to weather the storm. Without this maneuver, the ship would be doomed.

As a mediator, I believe the painting is a metaphor for those constructive but critical moments during a mediation when one can see the interactions of the participants move in a redemptive way. Even in the worst emotional storms, I really believe when those heaving-around moments come, God is present. Time and time again, I have seen the heaving-around moment come in the form of a much needed and sincere apology.

Here's what a heaving-around moment sounds like, "I hurt you. I am so sorry. I want to make sure this never happens again. So, this is how I will promise to change . . ."

That's the kind of apology that will help any relationship to weather the storms of conflict.

More on the art of Apology

More on the painting Heaving Around

More on the artist Marek Sarba

Redemptive Detour

Sometimes healing comes in other forms than what we intended. Sometimes redemption is redirected. A while ago, a new mediator called me to share the details of his first completed case. His enthusiasm was evident as he took me through his steps of working with a juvenile offender and the victim of the offender’s crime. While the mediation did not have all the elements of being “completed,” there was a different type of healing taking place. The more difficult task for the new mediator was not dealing with the offender and the victim as much as it was dealing with the tension between the juvenile and his parents. This tension made the mediation difficult. Even so, the mediation proved to be a turning point for the family. After the mediation came to an end, the father of the juvenile privately asked the mediator if he knew of a resource that would help them become better parents. This is a great example of how mediation becomes not just a time for problem-solving but an opportunity for redemptive transformation. By the way, the mediator is a member of a faith-community and, of course, has connections to resources!

Adversarial or Redemptive?

Once in a while, I am asked to mediate a case that is on a Fresno court calendar. The court will actually spin-off a case where they feel mediation is a better option compared to entering the adversarial court option. Normally, these cases come through the Dispute Settlement Center in Fresno.

I was asked to mediate between two families entrenched in conflict. They both had hired attorneys, filed suits/counter suits, and they were ready to go to court. I can’t tell you the details but it started over something very minor in my opinion. None-the-less, the minor became major to the point of their willingness to go to court over it and spend a lot of money on legal advice and representation.

The night of the mediation came, the families came including fathers, mothers and children, and the attorneys came. I asked the attorneys to sit in the back and they complied.

I started with a simple process. First, guidelines on how we are going to talk to each other. Second, asked everyone to be constructive and they agreed. Third, talked about what happened including each person sharing what he/she did to make this conflict escalate. Fourth, talked about what we needed to do to make things as right as possible. Fifth, talked about what we can promise that will help each other have a clearer picture of what the future relationship looks like. In theological terms, what we simply did was confession, atonement, and repentance.

By the end of the evening, the attorneys were utterly amazed at the progress, reconciliation, and forgiveness that took place in their midst. In fact, they suggested the court date be cancelled and . . . they waived their fees!

Could it be what God has modeled and taught us to do really works? Hmmmmm . . .

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." - GK Chesterton