Sunday Sentiments is an attempt to record what God has been teaching me and the way in which He does it.
As I predicted, Beth Moore's Breaking Free study has not been easy. God has used it to bring new attention to old hurts and unquestioned patterns.
I nurse my wounds. When someone hurts me, I retreat. I gather the hurts and pains like pebbles. I tell myself, they're just pebbles. Then I turn around and add them to a fence that will protect me from being hurt by them again. I tell myself that I am a forgiving person, that it takes a lot before I'll cut a relationship loose. I give people second and third chances time and time again. For the record, I'm referring to Big Hurts here, not the little inevitable hurts that are a part of any relationship between imperfect people. At the same time, once I've been hurt, I tend to wait for the other shoe to drop. You hurt me once, you'll probably do it again. This tension hovers in the air, in my heart, though I'd never name it out loud to that person.
It's ironic that, as a social worker, I know all about healthy communication but struggle to apply it to some of the relationships in my life. Passive aggression has been my friend for far too long. I've been consistently working on this for the past few years. Thankfully I am growing. I no longer give the silent treatment that I was famous for in high school, for example.
This week, Beth talks about binding up the brokenhearted, a reference to Isaiah 61:1. "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted." We all experience heartbreak at some point in our lives. Heartbreak from death, illness, relationships, failure. No one is exempt. What is important is how we will respond to heartbreak. When my Grandma died, I clung to God in my grief and found He was able. I wish I could say I have turned first to God every time I've been brokenhearted.
Beth writes: "Have you ever noticed that when your heart is broken, you tend to feel exposed and less in control of your emotions?...Life's way of reacting to a crushed heart is to wrap tough sinews of flesh around it and tempt us to promise we'll never let ourselves get hurt again. That's not God's way. Remember, self-made fortresses built to protect our hearts not only keep love from going out but they keep love from going in."
A crushed heart. One relationship has come to mind many times in the five years since it ended. God keeps prompting me to let it go but I haven't been able to. I have clung to the pebbles instead of God.
For the sake of his privacy, I'll call him Lars. The story of how Lars and I met, how he pursued me, and how he made me feel is still precious, though now tainted by the aftermath.
We dated briefly. I felt like I was on top of the world. I felt like I was falling in love for the first time. I was happier than I'd ever been. With one phone call, it all ended.
I was still living at my parents' house then. It was Saturday and I was home. I was in the process of making lunch when Lars called. I thought he might be calling about evening plans. Instead he broke my heart.
I could not understand what he was saying. All I could think was, get off the phone, get off the phone, get off the phone. I felt as if the air had left the room. I felt physically ill. My happy world was turned upside down. As Lars told me he was no longer interested, all I could picture was the day we had sat on the red couch in his living room when he told me he liked me. When he told me I had the qualities he was looking for in a wife.
After the shock left, the anger arrived. I was furious with him. Why had he pursued me if he wasn't sure of his feelings? Questions rushed through me. Friends fed the anger as they declared he was a jerk and offered to get in touch with "someone who knows someone who takes care of people."
Somehow Lars and I settled into a strange friendship. He still wanted me in his life. It was completely unhealthy for me to keep him in my life. Did he purposely string me along? I don't know. I think back to those months and all I can see is swirling confusion. Our friends thought we were dating. I knew we weren't but I couldn't pinpoint how Lars felt about me. All along, a growing resentment filled my heart. I wanted him to set boundaries once and for all. I didn't realize then that I should be setting the boundaries. My heart still hoped he would change his mind.
Just when I didn't think I could take the uncertainty anymore, Lars made a decision. He chose one of my good friends. We used to talk almost daily but he never told me he was now dating her. She didn't tell me either. I found out accidentally through someone else, who assumed I already knew. It was hard to grasp this news and the news that followed of further betrayal.
My heart broke all over again and bitterness came to stay.
I couldn't confront them. I choked on the words each and every time I tried. I wanted them to hurt as badly as they hurt me. I knew that truly, from the bottom of my heart forgiving them meant that I would have to hand my pebbles over to God. I haven't able to do it.
Even though I've had to interact with those two over the years due to many mutual friends and even though they invited me to their wedding, I've never been comfortable in their presence. I couldn't control the resentment that still bubbled inside of me but I didn't want to give it up either.
If you asked me about Lars, I would feel as hurt and angry today as I did five years ago. It's sad that a piece of my heart still belongs to Lars by virtue of not forgiving him.
As I did the Breaking Free homework Tuesday and Friday nights, I heard God say again "let it go." Let go of the anger, the heartbreak, the sadness. This time I'm listening.
Just in case I didn't get the message, last night at church, a song lyric specifically said "let it go." I smiled inwardly because God knows He can always reach me through music.
I need to see how God will use this in my life. I've been holding on to the hurt for so long that I'm not sure how to let go of it. It won't happen overnight but I have to start somewhere. I can't keep nursing my anger and bitterness over something I should have dealt with a long time ago.
So I'm choosing to let it go. One moment at a time, one day at a time.