Bury the hatchet

Photo: Troy Squillaci, Pexels. Photo: Troy Squillaci, Pexels.

My husband and I have been trying to leave home for four years now. Trying to leave the very place we felt called to for life.

Funny how that happens. Or sad.

A job loss in November 2016 ushered in what we call our weeping years. After 20 years of service, my husband was let go. It was a financial decision, difficult for those who needed to make it and a devastating blow to us at the time. The pain was compounded by the fact that we live on the property of this ministry. Sensing a lifetime call, we built our home here 26 years ago with every intention to stay.

It’s hard to heal in the land of your hurt. At least it has been for us. Every day we look out our windows or walk out our back door to face the life we no longer have. We see other people seemingly living the life for which we long. The reminders of our losses are all around us, so we’ve done what most pained people do. We’ve sought a way out. In multiple ways and on multiple days, we’ve tried to leave. Tried, but failed.

It’s felt similar to the Apostle Paul’s experience recorded in Acts 16:6-8. He and his companions had a plan to go into Asia, but the Holy Spirit forbade them. They tried another way, “but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them” to go there either.

Has Jesus ever opposed you like this? It’s very annoying! With the Spirit blocking our escape routes, we remain here — longing for community but resisting the one outside our door. We’d prefer a new one, please. One that is nice and shiny where we can avoid (at least for a brief spell) the real work of love, forgiveness and grace. But that doesn’t seem to be the way of God for us. Is it for anyone? I seriously doubt it.

All of this leads me to a phrase I woke up to the other week: Bury the hatchet. When words greet me in the predawn hours I know to pay attention to them. I crawled out of bed and did a quick online search.

Grammarist says: “The phrase ‘bury the hatchet’ comes from a ceremony performed by Native American tribes when previously warring tribes declared peace. When two tribes decided to settle their differences and live in harmony, the chief of each tribe buried a war hatchet in the ground to signify their agreement.”

I read that after a 1794 treaty between the United States and Great Britain, John Jay wrote to Lord Grenville: “May the hatchet be henceforth buried forever, and with it all the animosities.”
I picture a gravestone over the site of buried hatchets reading: Herein lie resentments, wrongs and misunderstandings.

A hatchet can symbolize cutting all ties and connection with something or someone. It’s also a weapon used to cause harm.

My husband and I felt the fall of the ax in 2016, cutting us off from our purpose, place, provision and people. I’m sorry to say that in our pain we did some severing of our own.
Burying this ax, this hatchet, would mean we don’t use it to sever the ties anymore. To bury that which disconnects and divides is not a denial of the pain it has caused. We must face it and feel it to heal it. There are no two ways around that. Burying is not a denial, but a decision. A decision against division.

What if we were to give the hatchet to our brothers and sisters through whom we experienced harm? Surrender it right over? What if we released the hatchet to them before placing it in the earth, allowing that which holds the power to destroy and divide to begin to disintegrate and dissolve?

There is a cemetery lining the property on which we live (how handy!). A cemetery over which others have prayed and prophesied. Numerous ones have told of seeing glory streaming down on that very site. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s related to that which we could bury and the blessing it would bring.

“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” the psalmist wrote. This harmony “is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore” (Psalm 133).

The words come to me now — from harm to harmony.

My husband and I have been trying to leave home for four years now. But maybe it’s not our home that needs to be left. Maybe it’s the hatchet we’ve been holding. It’s hard to heal when you’re holding a hatchet.

Jenny Gehman

Jenny Gehman

Jenny Gehman is a writer and retreat speaker in Millersville, PA. Read More

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