Saturday, February 06, 2010

How do you like your eggs?

As I've written about here before, I am, and have always been, pretty open and unguarded. I emotionally invest very deeply in the people I care about. And, as is probably predictable, it hasn't always gone well.

Maybe there is a God above
But all I've ever learned from love
Is how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya

When I was a teenager and in my early 20's, I had some very disheartening experiences with people who were supposed to be my closest friends. I was lied to. I was betrayed. My love and affection were treated cheaply. My heart was snatched away from me, ripped to pieces, and hurled back in my face with a sneer - multiple times. One of my favorite quotes from Friends was Rachel's quip to Monica: "Oh, I'm sorry, did my back hurt your knife?"

It was a maddening, frustrating pattern which eventually led me into a season of hardness, bitterness, and angst. I got tough. You didn't mess with me. I was angry and volatile and if you broke my trust once, well, that was it - we were done. You only got one chance. I lived up to the "redheaded temper" stereotype and was proud to do it. Looking back, I can see how much grace God, and people like my best friend who knew me at the time and still love me now, gave me during that time.

Eventually, I let go of the bitterness as God mended my heart. I let Him break down the walls I put up within myself - not at all consciously, but it happened. Praise God.

Even so, I looked forward to the days when we'd all be older - grown up, even - and the people I trusted wouldn't do this to me anymore. I thought surely that by the ripe old age of, say, 25, I would no longer have to deal with this kind of selfishness and emotional immaturity from the people to whom I opened up my heart.

Well, I'm two years and two months past that Age of Enlightenment, and in those two months I've had the exact same thing happen to me again - and not once, but twice.


Don't feel nothing, just old scars
Toughening up around my heart

I can feel my old defenses coming back to the surface. I can feel myself getting proud, self-righteous, self-protective. I'm building those emotional walls right back up again. For weeks now, I've just given in and let myself be angry. I've walked around with anger and resentment and bitterness bubbling right beneath the surface, keeping me disappointed and disheartened and afraid of letting anyone in. I don't like it. I don't like myself this way. I feel outside of myself, like I'm wearing armor that I don't want to be wearing and that's bulky and uncomfortable but for some ridiculously stupid reason that I can't believe still exists, is necessary. For protection. From people who are supposed to be Christian adults and also, oh yeah, my friends.

Clearly, it's working out well for me so far.

My very supportive friends and family have been wonderful. They've assured me that it's not your issue, it's theirs and you did nothing wrong and many other encouraging words that logically, I recognize are absolutely true. That's helpful and reassuring, sure, but honestly, it doesn't make it hurt any less. It doesn't change the fact that the affection and openness and love that I freely gave was handed back to me as if it were all worthless. As if it - and therefore I - don't matter at all.

She said, 'I don't know if I've ever been good enough
I'm a little bit rusty and I think my head is caving in
And I don't know if I've ever been really loved by a hand that's touched me
And I feel like something's gonna give
And I'm a little bit angry'

It's a gray, dreary, cloudy, cold day in Raleigh today. As I was on my daily walk earlier this afternoon, I was in full-on emotional indulgence mode and thinking about how stupid and how much of a shame this all is for the hundred thousandth time. I noticed buzzards slowly circling overhead, first one, then two, then five of them all at once. Obviously they were focused on something dead in the woods beside me, but it felt like it was me they were eying up as they winged closer and closer to the ground. I thought with grim amusement how ironic it would be if one of them pooped and it landed on me. That would just top everything off quite nicely.

And then I started thinking about Jesus.

Jesus knew better than anyone what it felt like to be betrayed, to be lied to, to have His affection thrown back at Him and His trust broken. To have His heart broken by the people He cared about most.

I thought about Jesus and Thomas - after Jesus rose from the dead, Thomas didn't believe it was really Him and demanded proof. Did Jesus retort back, "Thomas! You lying sack of crap! You followed me around for three years and saw me do all those miracles and now you want proof? What's wrong with you?"? I mean, He would've been totally justified in saying that. But He didn't. He loved Thomas despite his distrust, and He forgave his unbelief. Like nothing ever happened.

Then there's Peter. Peter, who was supposed to be Jesus' best friend, who denied Him three times to save his own skin. Peter, who vehemently protested when Jesus told him he was going to do exactly that. When Peter ran up to Jesus on the beach and hugged Him, did Jesus push him away? Did He say, "Get away from me, you arrogant jerk! You had your chance, and you blew it. I can't trust you anymore! I never want to talk to you again! YOU RUINED OUR FRIENDSHIP!"? He would have been totally justified in saying that. But He didn't. Instead, He hugged him right back, and then He made him breakfast. Like nothing ever happened.

And then I thought about Judas. Now, there's a guy who's beyond any hope of forgiveness, right? He betrayed Jesus in the worst way. He's Judas. He's the guy who sold Jesus out and then felt so guilty about it that he hanged himself. Talk about a jerk, and a coward, and someone with some serious emotional issues. But then I thought - wait a minute. Judas hanged himself, yes, but suicide is not an unforgivable sin. He was obviously convicted if he felt that guilty. He obviously knew Jesus was at least innocent - if not the Son of God. That means that it's possible that Judas repented and recognized Jesus as the Son of God before he died. For all we know, Judas could be in Heaven.

That made me stop in my tracks.

For all we know, Judas could be in Heaven.

Holy crap. (In the interest of full disclosure, I feel compelled to tell you that that is exactly the phrase that echoed in my brain at that thought.)

If Judas is in Heaven, I have to imagine what Jesus would've said to him when He got back there and saw him. Would He say, "Wait...what? JUDAS? WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? Are you SERIOUS? Are you KIDDING ME WITH THIS? Who do you think you are? GET. OUT. NOW!"

He would be totally justified in saying that. But He wouldn't. He would probably hug Judas and cry with happiness that he had realized who He was in time to save his soul. Like nothing ever happened.

After thinking about all this, I suddenly started to feel very small and silly and like I've been wasting a whole lot of energy with my anger and resentment and emotional walls when I should be trying to be more like Jesus.

Cause maybe someday we'll figure all this out
Try to put an end to all our doubt
Try to find a way to just feel better now
And maybe someday we'll live our lives out loud
We'll be better off somehow

We all have choices. Friendship is a choice. Forgiveness is a choice. Love is a choice. The people who tried to push me out of their lives made the choice to do so. And now I have choices to make in response. It's not going to be easy or come naturally to me (obviously). It doesn't make what they did right or acceptable. It doesn't negate the heartbreak I feel. But now, it's my choice as to whether I let their actions turn me back into someone who's defensive and self-protective and that hard version of myself, or if I will, instead, let the Lord who lives in me teach me to act as He would in this situation.

I think about Jesus hugging Peter. I'm sure they both cried - Peter out of sorrow and apology, Jesus out of relief and happiness that He had his best friend back. It was Jesus' choice in that moment how to respond, and He forgave Peter. And then He made him breakfast, and they were best friends again.

That reminds me, I need to go to the grocery store. I'm nearly out of eggs. And I suddenly feel the need to keep plenty of them around. Just in case.