Running Scared

My tendency is to retreat.

I feel the first tendrils of pain or fear start to lick at my heart, I feel the butterflies that warn me of what’s coming, and my tendency is to scurry under the most solid shelter I can find. It might be my busyness. Or it could be immersing myself in someone else’s needs. At my worst it’s burying myself between the covers of a book or a Netflix binge. If I am lucky, the danger was imagined or slides past and I can emerge cowardly but unscathed. Sometimes the enemy manages to find me, and I can only crawl back to the surface of the suffering once it’s over.

We all know that when we cut ourselves of from pain we are simultaneously cutting ourselves off from pleasure. We know that walls are bad, boundaries are good. We know that the risk of hurt is worth the potential for love. We know. But that doesn’t keep me from making decisions out of an instinctive, almost carnal sense of self-preservation.

The problem I’m running into tonight is that self-preservation, it turns out, is necessarily isolating. Because I can’t control or predict your actions toward me. I can’t know all your motivations, because even you can’t know all your motivations. You could hurt me or use me or exploit me, protect me or nurture me or draw me close. I have no way to know. I’ve loved enough people, and been in enough relationships, and observed enough behavior to know that the silent one may love deeply and the expressive one may be murdering your soul.

I don’t get to know the end of the story. None of us do. Dating. Getting married. Having children. Deep friendship. Discipleship. Investing in someone. Worship. They are all huge, terrifying risks. The thought of any one of them sends those tendrils of fear creeping around my heart. Yet something else is there as well. An excitement. A confidence. An assurance that I just might be able to experience your love if I’m willing to risk your wounding. And if you’ll risk the same for me something beautiful just might happen.

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain….It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility: for his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen, and the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.”

~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

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