Can I Hide Now?
by Kristen Heitzmann, best-selling author of 17 novels including Indivisible
Ask people what is the most important thing in their lives besides faith in Christ and they’ll most likely name a relationship: my marriage, my kids, my friends. Ask what is the most difficult, they’ll answer the same. Most people ultimately measure their lives by how well they succeeded in the relationships God gave them.
But what happens when the relationships that are supposed to nurture don’t? What about the messy, unfulfilling, hurtful relationships that make us turn our backs, nurse our grievances, put up walls to keep offenders safely outside? Some boundaries are healthy, some necessary. But boundaries can be habit forming. They can become the foundation for building our own little kingdoms instead of the kingdom of God.
In my novel Indivisible, Tia Manning and Jonah Westfall are scarred by abusive or dysfunctional family members and their own past interaction. These wounds cause them to guard themselves and avoid relationships that could leave them vulnerable. Being vulnerable is countercultural to looking out for number one. Being vulnerable means it might hurt.
When a child scrapes a knee, his first response is to cover it with his hand. It might take quite a bit of prying and cajoling to get a look at the hurt beneath that determined shield. In just that way, we instinctively cover wounds in our relationships. The harder we clamp down and refuse to tend the wound, the more likely it is to fester. But some wounds go so deep, it seems the cure is just too costly.
While anger is one way people react to being hurt, it can result in undesirable repercussions, such as an equally angry response. Far safer to simply withdraw, right? Placing our hearts in safekeeping might seem like wisdom, until the key turns in the lock and we can no longer function as we were intended to.
In the words of Pearl S. Buck, “The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.”
Our Father did not create us to be isolated individuals. He built into humanity a desire for one another and a responsibility toward each other. When we, like Cain, ask God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” God’s reply is a resounding yes!
While He loves us personally, He also loves us corporately and calls us to that same love for one another. We need look no farther than a mother and infant to understand the interdependence inherent in our natures. In adulthood, independence is possible, even touted.
Mavericks, rebels, and lone wolves claim to need no one and are seen as sturdier for it. We might believe we are stronger and better and safer on our own, yet we are still called to relationship. “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
We are called to serve, love, and cherish one another, but navigating challenging relationships can leave us feeling exposed. While perfect love casts out fear, human love is rarely perfect. Pride, selfishness, entitlement, self-doubt, and critical spirits mar our interactions. Even so, Godly relationships are the way we become the body of Christ. These relationships require sacrifice, the sacrifice of our wills and desires, when necessary, for another’s good—even when that sacrifice might never be repaid or even acknowledged.
Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “The only gift is a portion of thyself.”
When we’ve been broken, we want to keep all the pieces to ourselves. Yet it is in trusting and serving one another, that we become instruments of peace, of love and healing, Christ’s hands on earth. Even as His hands were pierced for us, so we will sometimes be pierced. In bearing those wounds, we sanctify the mission to which we’re called, to love one another, as He has loved us.