In my grief it is easy to get lost in what others think, say and do. I can imagine things they haven’t said, amplify and distort the words spoken, and my instinct is always to retreat. Some things said are inappropriate, not just my imagination. Again, my instinct is to retreat. But then I feel alone, very alone. And in those thoughts I begin to imagine the worst, the most damaging things, and in those thoughts I alienate others, whether that is my intention or not.
I have a responsibility to take care of self and to communicate my boundaries when necessary, but that is not the same as hiding because I feel rejected. Setting boundaries and staying connected when I feel hurt is the hardest thing to do, the most challenging to balance in my life, and shame tends to be the circus master. And it does become a circus in my head. I want to control and blame, hoping then I won’t feel afraid to continue to be vulnerable, to need others and to feel the hurt of being let down. And others will let me down. And I will let them down.
So this is the dilemma, to depend on God and need community, and to know the difference. I can yield to shame and desperation, or I can be a tree planted by the water, nourished by God. The tree with deep roots, unbroken by this world and the damage of sin. I think it’s intriguing that “sin” in Spanish is the word for without. Scripture teaches that sin is anything that comes between God and self, that leaves me without Him in that moment or connection of relationship. It leaves me without the ability to depend on Him, to be loved and nourished by him, to remain sheltered and protected. To sin leaves me without everything I need, and those needs are directly met by Him, and Him alone.
Christ was willing to be alone, without anyone but the Father, in his time of greatest need. He pled for there to be another way, and I find myself pleading for the same. I am not afraid to die, but I am afraid of being alone, and at times deeply hurt when I look to other sinners to fill that need instead of the Father. Christ was alienated or denied in His greatest hour of need by every follower who claimed love and fealty, so why am I hurt or even surprised? That is my sin in that moment, expecting from others what only God can give, letting loneliness take over and questioning God instead of leaning on the One who will never fail me. And then I put unfair pressure on those around me, on people I love and care for, and I pull away to protect.
I push away when I really want to rest, relax, and enjoy them. Everything becomes about performance, for them and me. When I lean and depend on God, everything is about connection and joy, acceptance and hope. I don’t need to know the future, and when I demand to know it, I quickly trade joy for anxiety. I pray to rest in the joy of now, of speaking out and sharing struggle, exposing the shame that binds, and celebrating a love that knows no limit or bounds. I pray that love can flow through me, undeterred and surrendered. We will let each other down. We will fail. But in that worst moment, He is there. We are never abandoned or alone, and knowing this lets us live in genuine community. May we walk through today wrapped in the mantle of His love with peace and joy in our hearts and sharing that love with one another.