“But if I refuse to feel, I’ll never bleed, but I’ll never heal.” ~JJ Heller ‘Sound of a Living Heart.’
I was a master of camouflage. Learning how to hide away, deep inside myself. Eyes down, head down, behind layers of skepticism, doubt, and bitterness, I hid. Away from humanity. Hiding from the potential of community. Because my experiences had always taught me that that community comes at the cost of vulnerability, and vulnerability results in betrayal. So I did’t seek you out, and when you sought me out, I approached you quickly through the eyes of a skeptic. Doubting you, resisting you, and making sure the wall between us was not compromised.
This wasn’t always conscious. I became so accustomed to doubting people, their intentions, and their sincerity, that I didn’t even realize what was happening, nor did I realize the extent to which it was happening.
The condition of my heart progressively transformed my interactions. Not only did I begin to doubt the sincerity of those around me, but I also began doubting the importance of what I had to say, what I had to offer; therefore, constantly redirecting the conversation back to you, for fear of loosing both your interest and your validation. I didn’t realize how much I needed you, how much you could offer me. So I never sought more than surface level encounters, because that was all I believed in.
Then, the loneliness crept in. The isolation became too strong. Suddenly, I was not protecting myself anymore, I was only hurting myself by trying to suffocate this essential human need for community. In broken surrender I had to learn to forgive in order that I could learn to love and be loved. I did this the only way I knew how, by following Jesus’ example of love. We love because He first loved us. This love is not circumstantial. This love is not a response to good deeds. This love is not a attempt to gain some kind of mutuality.
That truth was all I could hold on to as I bridged the gap from my island of insecurity and skepticism to the land of the living.
But it was enough.
As I surrendered, He broke down my walls of bitterness, and I learned to forgive. He broke down the walls of doubt, and taught me to trust again. He broke down my walls of defense, and reminded me I was not dependent on the love of other’s. And he broke down my my stubborn independence, and taught me of a community stronger than my self.
God changed my perspective of who He was, and therefore redefined my expectations of people. I learned God’s desire is to flow through all my empty places, leaving me with no voids left for others to fill. Because of this, I could let them into my life, not dependent on the outcome of these relationships.
Cause that was never the goal of community anyway, for us to get what only God can provide from others. Community is a gift, but not a replacement for God. Bring to Him your broken pieces, painful memories, and empty places. Let Him invade these places. Then, and only then, can you can take a hold of the hands around you, allowing them to be your support.
Sometimes I still forget this though. Sometimes, I still forget that God wants me to let people in, and I realize yet another layer of my doubt and skepticism. And in this, I instinctually flee towards the old, skeptical version of myself, and remain hidden, using my instinctual quiet personality as an excuse to shut the world out of my heart. I have to be reminded, by both God and others, that this idea of community is part of God’s plan for us, and it is well worth the risk.