Love is Wise, Life is Short, Pain is a Gift
JANUARY 16, 2018
I was talking with some friends of mine who were saying how thankful they were for the small blessings of God, even when the big things are out of whack.
Man, can I relate to that. Right now, I’ve got my fist around a few precious things as everything else feels like it’s coming down around me. At the same time, I’m in the healthiest place I’ve been in years, have people that love me without borders, and even though the future is a blurry, scary place, that handful of love keeps me going.
These haven’t been the best last few years, but I’m standing in daylight now, and that’s caused me to reflect on what I’ve learned from the pain of that time. I guess I knew some of these things, but they really solidified lately. I had to hit bottom, face-first, to see them, but they helped me.
Love is Wise
I can empathize with and love unhealthy people as a Christian and still not sacrifice my well-being or time to entertain their ultimately selfish behavior. I’ve been thinking about boundaries for years, but the best I ever managed were some lopsided fences. It was hard for me to reconcile my call to love and forgive people with the fact that some people were soul-sucking leeches. Giving in relationships is sort of a less intimate version of giving in sex. Sex is a big give. You’re literally naked in front of someone. But, as intimate as that act is, there are still boundaries. Even sex doesn’t give someone ownership of your body to do with as they please. There are agreed-upon boundaries even there. So, love, even deep love, doesn’t mean allowing someone to trample across your borders.
The hardest thing to realize is that those ‘soul-sucking leeches’ aren’t always obvious. They may be the kindest, sweetest, neediest people we know. Our friends, our spouses, even our close relatives. You can be gentle in forgiving those transgressions, but you can also be wise in tapping on that border fence to remind them what’s what. Occasionally, that even means closing a door on a relationship because someone has shown you consistently that they will not change. No matter how tall your wall, they’re going to scale that sucker. Although it’s a different context, Jesus’ admonition to let our yes mean yes and our no mean no in Matthew 5:37 is good advice here too.
Life is Short
Loving our enemies means working and wishing for their best, not allowing ourselves to be trampled by them and calling it ‘love’. Life is too short to not give your whole heart to the people to whom your love is happily returned with no strings or selfishness. I’ve given far more than is healthy to those who take like I’m a buffet, but refuse to do the real work to better care for my needs, and love me well—even though they say that’s what they want. I have varying degrees of relationship with lots and lots of people. Both kind and annoying. But the people I save my greatest energy for are those who I know love me deeply.
I’m not talking about perfect people. I’m not talking about people I always agree with, or who always agree with me. I’m talking about people who respect, love, and are there for me no matter what. The imperfect lovers of my soul. I’ve spent too much time looking for some fantasy future with fantasy people that doesn’t exist. I also spend too much time wading through the swamp of my past hurts and broken loves to appreciate the present. Both the present things that need to change, and the precious gifts of the people I presently have. Now is the gift we have. The wheel that turns the boat.
Pain is a Gift
Life’s also too short not to take the time to feel my pain. I spent way too many years trying to avoid pain. That was a huge mistake. I’ve learned that running both increases my pain and makes it stick around longer because I’m not dealing with it. I need to grieve properly, and let healing come when it’s ready; accepting that pain is a disruptive, but ultimately honest thing. Pain points to our need for support and, if we ignore it, finally forces us to stop running so we can heal by any means necessary.
It took me a long time to learn those lessons. And hard-earned lessons are the best remembered lessons. We humans seem to have a habit of having to learn lessons the hard way. But I give mine to you freely in the hopes that you get to walk around the pits and over the traps. I hope you can draw healthy boundaries, love those healthy relationships, and let those people be guiding voices as you patiently endure suffering, trusting that God is right beside you.
Read more from Chad West Here.