My chest aches with stabbing pains. I can feel old wounds opening up in the spirit as I make plans to meet with someone who, in the past, maliciously harmed me.
In the last year, I let myself get close to two unrelated people whose brokenness prevented them from being safe and loving. I encountered emotional outbursts, unwelcome visits at my workplace, physical attempts to break down my door, and verbal assaults. These attacks happened months apart, but I was healing from both for the last year.
One of the people from whom I experienced this sort of violation wants to be a part of my life. A few months ago, I couldn't have said yes to this. I felt unsafe, unprotected, and... I doubted my ability to discern safety from danger.
Walls vs. Boundaries
I put up walls and called them boundaries. Sometimes they are the same thing, and this is absolutely okay. With one person, I decided the wall needed to be permanent. She hadn't apologised or shown any remorse. She had even concocted a story to justify her violent choices to avoid feelings of shame.
The other person, however, had apologised and expressed a willingness to learn to protect my heart. I would not advise this to people who've been violated or attacked in any way, but I'm going to take the risk of giving this person (limited) access to me for a short time tomorrow afternoon. We may get coffee or lunch, and I have no idea what to expect.
To be honest, I doubted for months if I could do this.
It is incredibly hard to treat someone with honour and respect when fear is churning within every conversation and interaction. You're much more likely to say or do something equally damaging in return. Until recently, I didn't feel capable of being respectful and loving to the person I'm meeting tomorrow because I was afraid of encountering more terrifying outbursts.
I'm still afraid of that, actually. But something has changed. I am absolutely confident that if such a situation arises again, I can walk away with dignity and shake off hurtful words like dust from my feet. I can set a boundary and decide for myself if I'll ever allow another damaging interaction to take place.
Why offer another chance to someone that hurts you?
There are two reasons I'm allowing this person a chance to meet with me tomorrow.
The first is that I need to apologise and repent. I didn't represent Jesus in the way I cut this person out of my life. I let my pain speak for me rather than the truth. Either way, a boundary needed to be set and enforced. It's still very difficult to set boundaries respectfully, but I've learned how to do it.
The second reason is that I believe in God's ability to work in people. There was a time that I was as broken as the people who hurt me. I was transformed because of one friend in particular who consistently loved me through my rocky growing process and affirmed my identity in God rather than my poor mindset. (Isn't it so much easier to grow when someone believes in you? When you're not shackled by chains, but encouraged with truth?)
I'm in a lot of pain right now. I can feel in the spirit the words and the wounds that tormented me for months, even after I moved to another city. I know that I'm going to need to pursue more inner healing for those hurts. But I feel more than strong enough to love this person and protect my own heart tomorrow.
We all have wounds, but we are all powerful enough to respond out of love instead of pain. I couldn't have done this in the initials days, weeks, or months afterwards... but I can do it now. I suppose I'll let you know how it goes.
I will say this first, though. To the people who've hurt me so deeply this year... I'm not angry, and I forgive you. I may never let you into my heart the same way again, but there's always hope for restoration and healing as long as there's a God.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians Chapter 5 Verse 17)
Grace lives in Redding, California. She is constantly inspired by the beauty around her. She loves to hike, fish, ski, and take long walks. She is passionate about worship and seeing God's love lived out through her community.
Grace Wood's articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/grace-wood.html