Today, however, I read some words on my friend Rachel's blog that have really stirred a reaction in me. The Lord is using my reaction to her words to reveal to me just how much I have not been able to move on in healing after this particular relational break.
Just what did my friend's blog say? Taken out of context (she was referencing her emotionally-difficult-but-very-rewarding new job as an oncology nurse, which often makes her cry), her words were as follows:
"There is something redemptive and beautiful about the process of vulnerability, fear, compassion, love, and tears."
The reaction I had? It is a familiar one... one I've repeated countless times over the years since the rejection of my other friend. It is complicated, and it goes something like this: I read those words, and a spark of recognition fills my heart with agreement and joy, but it is immediately eclipsed by a wave of extreme hurt that pricks my throat and my gut, causing tears to spring to my eyes and a little pain to rise in the side of my nose. This reaction--which always catches me off guard and which is extremely unwelcome, given my complete inability to do anything about the unresolved relational break--is almost immediately swallowed away into cynicism. My dear friend self-protection, who has come to be my constant companion these last five years, swoops in to save me from the pain of that brokenness.
The only problem? It doesn't work. And so at that point I choose to loop back around to the initial fleeting feeling of agreement and joy. I camp there, preaching the gospel to myself and reminding myself what I know to be true of grace... of God's amazing, immeasurable grace... of the grace of this One who will never leave me or forsake me, even when others do. I also choose, by sheer force of my will and surrender to the truth, against my feelings, to believe that grace is also possible in human beings; that my husband, and my children, and the other people in my life with whom I've chosen vulnerability and realness, really can and do accept me and love me, in spite of all my many flaws and the myriad of ways that I may (read: will) hurt and disappoint them.
I spend my days walking with God... trying to stay tender and soft and supple in my heart... striving to stay open and real and vulnerable in my other relationships, despite the fear of rejection that always threatens to show its ugly face and rob me of the joy of grace-filled relationship... despite how the cynicism has subtly and irrevocably infected my feelings about the church we both once attended, rendering me unable to sit there and listen to messages about practicing humility, modeling authenticity, demonstrating love...
In short, I know that this unexpected, unwelcome response to certain things (a friend's words in a blog post, a song on the radio, a message in a sermon) belies the healing that I assumed had taken place. Yes, the frequency of this surprise response has gone down as time has passed. Yes, the time spent in the different stages of the loop has shortened. I have mistakenly assumed that this means healing has taken place.
But the truth of the matter is that healing has not taken place. Restoration has not happened. And so, sitting a pew or two apart, pretending this horrible relational abandonment and rejection never happened, listening to messages about grace and "real relationship"... well, the words ring hollow at best.
Just this past week it was my youngest daughter's Language Arts lesson which arose to surprise me with this little loop. It was nearly three years ago that this very same lesson surprised me over this very same issue and prompted me to blog about it:
"It's very simple," Herkimer told her. "To turn an enemy into a friend, all you have to do is love him."
"Love him? Are you sure? That doesn't sound easy at all. That sounds terribly difficult to me," Annabelle said.
"Oh, it is difficult, " Herkimer agreed. "Probably one of the most difficult things in the world. But I said it was simple, not easy."
From The Tale of Annabelle Hedgehog. Published by Lion Publishing, Batavia, Illinois. Copyright 1990 by Stephen Lawhead.
Still trying to figure it out, these many years later... this very simple, not-at-all-easy thing we're called to do. And whenever the surprise cycle comes, I fall to my knees in my heart, silently thanking the Lord for His matchless, limitless grace, and "weep to the praise of the mercy I've found." May I be continually transformed by His merciful Spirit to learn to love like He does, in spite of the reality of past hurts that leave a prick in my throat and a sting in my nose.