Recently a friend of mine opened up and shared some tough things, smeared mascara running down her cheeks and all. She ended our talk by saying how much she appreciated having a safe space to let her guard down and allow someone to know all of her– the good, the bad, and the ugly. No matter what trial she’s going through or what she’s personally struggling with, she knows I love her and won’t disown her.
Later that night, as I reflected, I thought about what typically keeps walls up in relationships:
There is often this underlying fear of truly being known.
“Well, if they really knew me…”
This fear of being rejected for who you really are.
I know I’ve experienced this. People initially engage me in conversation alright, but upon revealing my nerdy knack for all things philosophical and theological, I see their eyes glaze over and a yawn begin to form. My knee-jerk reaction is to shut down and stop sharing who I really am; just stick to what they want to hear.
This happens all the time in our lives, from the big to the small. Most of it is insignificant. You refrain from interjecting that you actually didn’t care for that movie with the weird blue people when the rest of the group did. You hide your enjoyment of classical music and ballet when amongst a group of athletes and gym-goers. You pretend to understand the lofty verbiage coming from a well-educated individual, shoving down that feeling of inferiority in their presence. Your daughter pauses at mentioning her favorite hobby of playing with dolls after a few classmates joke that dolls are for babies.
We all do it.
To a degree, some of this is normal. We don’t want every conversation to become a debate, and if we’re in a healthy place, we merely recognize that people enjoy different things.
However, when fear and shame build and it begins to affect us on a deeper level, then it stagnates our relationships.
- A refusal to ever open up with your small group.
- Prayer requests that always remain “unspoken.”
- An inability to share flaws, all the while they fester into a sense of shame, feeling like “you’re the only one” who struggles with fear, pride, anger, bitterness (you fill in the blank).
Here is the beautiful part: God does know us. He knows every intricate, unique detail about us. He knows what makes each of us tick. He knows Joy is sweet and sensitive and can’t handle too much chaos at once. He knows Grant is the extrovert who feels lonely without lots of bustling activity and people around him. He knows Jamie comes alive with music, while Sarah is happiest digging in the dirt, and Calvin loves any game involving a ball to kick or throw.
Along with all the good, He also knows which of us tend to lose patience the easiest, those who are the most gripped by anxiety and the “what ifs”, those whose moods can swing up or down, those who struggle with laziness, and those who forget to slow down and enjoy quiet moments with their kids.
God knows all of this, along with so much more that we don’t even recognize about ourselves. And yet he still chooses us. He still says yes, again and again, whether at this moment you are thriving and living your best life, or you feel like a hot mess puddle on the floor. He relentlessly pursues us, because he is the Perfect Heavenly Father who never gives up, nor turns his back, on his children.
In the same way you delight in the differences of your kids, God delights in us.
That being said, what if we began to really absorb that we are to reflect the heart of God? What if we allowed the way God faithfully loves us to transform us to the degree that we can love others in that very same way? How would that change the way people experience the love of Jesus in this world?
What if you become a safe haven for a close friend? A trusted confidant with whom they can truly be themselves and still experience the love of Jesus.
What if you begin to extend the same grace and mercy toward your child as God extends to you?
How would your marriage change if you knew your spouse would still approach you with agape love, no matter how low you feel on your worst day? What sort of intimacy could begin to flourish?
That, my friends, is pure freedom and kingdom-of-God relationships. What a lovely picture to envision being surrounded by friends and family with whom we feel both known and still loved.
Unlike the moment with my friend where she did feel incredibly safe and loved, I don’t always get this right. Sometimes I roll my eyes at my husband. Sometimes I unintentionally dismiss what someone else enjoys. Sometimes I react poorly to my daughter’s sensitivity, forgetting that she gets most of that trait from me. But God has been bringing this to my attention more and more, and I’ve been asking Him to keep stretching my heart to love like he does. Because the truth is, without receiving God’s love ourselves, allowing it to permeate our hearts and transform the way we view others, trying to love like Jesus will be quite the uphill battle.
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”1 John 4: 10-12
This doesn’t necessitate being all things to all people. Even Jesus said no to some things and some people. But we do have this incredible opportunity to embrace the relationships God has put in our lives and to begin allowing God’s love to bubble up out of us, so that those with whom we do interact are impacted for the better.
Let us go about our week and ask the Lord for discernment about where we can display steadfast love to others, along with where we can begin to make ourselves vulnerable in order to receive Christ’s love from trusted people around us.
Grace and peace,