A few months ago I felt God calling me to one of hardest things— forgiveness; making peace with someone who used to be in my life. If you’re anything like me, you’d rather sweep that broken relationship and broken heart under the rug and pretend it never existed, but that’s not what God calls us to. I felt that all too familiar feeling, that gut wrenching feeling when you know you need to do something that you should have done a long time ago, but kept putting off. I started to try and understand the deeper issue— what makes us delay forgiveness? I realized that in that moment, it was fear. A year earlier, it may have been anger or resentment, six months earlier it may have been hurt or bitterness, but then, it was the fear. The fear of rejection, the fear of “not being good enough,” the fear of betrayal, the fear of being laughed at in our vulnerability, the fear that in our vulnerability we would be attacked and because we let our guard down, we would be an EASY target.
The culture we live in teaches us that we definitely don’t want to be the person who wasn’t loved as much as we loved. I truly believe it goes back to this middle-school-like fear of being the one who liked someone who didn’t like you. I was worried that in my vulnerability and putting my heart forward that it would be greeted by someone who didn’t care about this “peace” as much as I did— didn’t care about me as much as I cared about them, and didn’t see me as worthy of forgiveness and love the way I saw them.
Let me reassure you, in the Kingdom, you want to be the one who loved greater, who loved harder, and made themselves weaker for the sake of forgiveness in the name of Jesus.
I had come to this idea in my head that I could protect myself from hurt and rejection by blocking this person and their friends on social media and distancing myself from any and every place or event that they might be. I put up a digital and metaphorical wall and any person that I would see post something with them in it or that involved them would immediately be cast onto the other side of the wall with them. It may have worked on a surface level for a little while, but I believe we have all experienced this next part, whether it be with an old best friend, an ex-boyfriend, or a family member that’s no longer in your life—you do your best to keep from seeing anything they post, or like, or share, from having to see them in person. With time you start to think, “I’m totally over it, they’re irrelevant.” Here comes the good part, you see them. You’re scrolling down your feed and see a post they are tagged in or you’re a football game at your old high school and you see them. Immediately you’re triggered into the spiral of hurt and bitterness all over again. So let me ask, was the wall really there?
I tend to think about things in metaphors and I’ve been picturing this as a built up wall where anything that even has association with this person gets thrown to the other side. I want to suggest that maybe, this isn’t a stone or brick wall, but a wall made of glass. You can’t hear them and they can’t physically touch you— but they can still hurt you. How? When a situation arises and you see them, that alone is enough to remind you of all the hurt that you cast to the other side of the wall and tried to forget was ever there. Isn’t it crazy that we sometimes will willingly submit ourselves to this hurt, I know I’m not the only one who has “checked up on an old friend” on social media. Let me tell you, checking up on someone via their social media will never leave you in a better place emotionally. Even if this person’s life was spiraling out of control, they would never let it be evident on social media, that’s just how humans are. Inevitably their life will seem like it is filled with sunshine and rainbows and you’ll be left feeling like they are thriving while you are barely surviving.
I am the QUEEN of building walls, people. Ask my family, my friends, anyone who knows my struggles knows I can build a wall. If someone does something that hurts me and I don’t have time or want to deal with confronting that person right in the moment a wall immediately goes up. Of course, I’ve been working on being better, that’s how we got to this blog. Trust me, I’ve been there, sister!
If you’ve ever been to a campus ministry event with the topic of dating or talked to someone at your church about dating, you’ve inevitably heard Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” While this verse is filled with truth, I allowed the enemy to do the same thing he did to Eve in the garden— twist the word of God in order chain us to pain. I mean this is truly war—and what better tactic than twisting the words of the one who we are trying to faithfully serve?I was believing that I was supposed to “guard my heart” by making sure these people weren’t able to hurt me every again. I was believing a lie that the enemy told me that to “guard your heart” was something that I was capable of doing. I completely missed the boat here; Jesus is the only one that is capable of guarding our hearts. There’s nothing that we alone can do to make sure people don’t hurt us. We can build wall after wall but at the end of the day, building walls doesn’t heal hearts; it just makes sure that you never have to confront the issue. It was in the moment when I felt God calling me back to vulnerability that I was reminded of what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But He [God] said to me [Paul], ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for MY power is perfected in [your] weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”
Back to the metaphor… My poorly built walls fell down and I decided to stand vulnerable to anything this person could hurt me with. I was terrified, but the Lord does not go back on His promises. I realized as soon as I said, “I’m letting my walls fall. I’m giving my heart to you to be guarded because I know I’m not capable, tell me what to do, help me to operate with a vulnerable and unashamed heart,” Christ surrounded me with a force field that none of my poorly built walls could compare to.
For me, this metaphor represents His will. No, this doesn’t cover us from being hurt if we do whatever we want or react in a “worldly” way, but as long as we give our hearts to Him to be guarded and operate within His will, we are able to walk away without a scratch, without a bruise, without a heartache because Jesus steps in and takes the pain for us. He reminded me that He goes before us, His angels go beside us, and the Holy Spirit is at work in us actively guarding our hearts. When we give our hearts to Him to be guarded, we can see the greater picture that is the salvation story; the story of underserved forgiveness that changed the eternity of souls.
In our fear, Christ is made strong. Relating back to 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’…” Guarding your heart isn’t about shielding off hurt, but is more about asking God to show you what’s beyond the hurt.
Galatians 6: 7-8 talks about us reaping what we have sown. Since the dawn of time, planting a tomato seed will grow a tomato plant. Planting a tomato seed never has and never will grow a cucumber. When we are vulnerable we allow our weaknesses to be shown. We need to choose to plant seeds of vulnerability, seeds that show our weakness, therefore making Christ’s power perfect as they grow.
When you begin the forgiveness process with someone, planting your seeds of vulnerability, showing your weakness, you actually plant two seeds. The first is one that you and the other person should grow together, and another that you nurture on your own through Christ. The seed that you plant with the other person may not be watered or nurtured by the other person immediately, but seeds can wait. Did you know a seed can stay alive for hundreds of years if kept in a certain climate? Seriously, this spoke to me. If water is poured in time, it will sprout, but we have to remember that we did our part, the seed was sown.
The second seed is one that we will have to nurture forever. We cannot forget that we have planted this seed and without regular water (outpouring of vulnerability) it will not continue to grow. In this metaphor, the growth is Christ’s power being revealed. Relating back to the second half of 2 Corinthians 12:9 “…Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.” The more we continually show our own weaknesses, the more He can show His strength.
The art of vulnerability is refusing to be shameful of who you are and what’s happening in your heart, fighting the fear that Christ can’t or won’t protect you as well as you can protect yourself, and pursuing the greater purpose of glorifying God through making yourself weak so that His power can be made perfect. To pursue forgiveness, we must pursue vulnerability through handing our hearts to Christ to be guarded while boasting of our weaknesses.