“Freedom isn’t going through life unscathed, It’s choosing to not let what has hurt you bind you.” – Leo Christopher
To finally come to an understanding that I will never stop growing has brought a sense a of peace, calm and self-acceptance to my life. When I consider who I use to be, (not that I was such a bad guy) I recall a younger version of myself that was guilt-ridden, anxious, worrisome, unfulfilled, hero-driven, (a need to rescue others) and having a huge lack of confidence. Honestly I could add more to this list, and perhaps if you know me you would as well, however I know that I have come a long way and I am grateful for the growth, genuine love and hope I have for myself.
As a Christian, so much of my life has been centered around helping others and focusing on how to love people more effectively with God’s grace, not that I had mastered the love walk or anything, but as much as this is an essential component to our Christian walk, so many times we tend to neglect that portion of the “Golden Rule” that speaks about loving ourselves. I mean how can we really love anyone effectively, genuinely and honestly if we have not first learned how to love ourselves first? And one way to determine the level of love we have for ourselves is the depth of love we have in our personal relationships.
For instance, it took me many years to come to a revelation that my chain of broken relationships was more about me than the women I dated or pursued. The old (and selfish me) would easily deduce that it had to be something broken in them, versus me and in some cases they were equally broken, but it was still a more accurate reflection of me than them, and even though deep down in my quiet moments I intellectual knew this, I would still never allow it to truly resonate with the parts of me that mattered the most. Therefore it was easily tossed away and on I went fighting within myself and hurting people.
So what has to happen to finally come to a place where we recognize these dark things about ourselves? Because we are each uniquely different and have obviously inherited our own set of proclivities and issues, the sky is the limit on what it takes to finally get to “that place” of genuinely wanting more for ourselves. Whether we call it our “aha moment”, “our wake up call”, or we finally hit rock bottom, something has to happen to get us there. Most of us simply are not wired to come to that place on our own recognizance. I wish it were different, but sadly it is not. Unfortunately (depending how you look at it) for me it was hitting that rock bottom place that finally woke me up, and although I am humbly grateful for that moment, I would rather not relive it again.
So as much as I recognize that I am a new creation in Christ (according to II Corinthians 5:17), I equally understand there are more layers yet to be identified, revealed and acknowledged. And I realize that a relationship is one of the instruments that God uses to challenge me while on this journey called life.
Just today I had a conversation with my wife that revealed I still have many areas I still need to grow in. It was not an accusatory type of conversation, but it prompted me to share a few things that perfectly identified an attitude or type of protection I still carry from my childhood after being molested. The best way I can describe what I discovered is using the word layers. Just when I thought I had something mastered, another thing pops up to show me there is still room to grow.
This particular thing happened to be about how I display emotion and empathy while simultaneously protecting myself when feeling threatened. It’s kind of a weird thing, but when someone is abused, (especially as a child) we develop defense mechanisms to protect ourselves when we have no control on what is happening to us. Since we cannot prevent this terrible thing from occurring, we find a way to distract our brain or shut down the parts that feel the pain. Although this became a way for me to survive as a kid, it also became a way of life for me as an adult, which has significantly impacted how I connect, defend and love.
During my childhood I had no idea this form of protecting myself would gravitate to becoming a full-grown “thing” in my adult life. It is like I either had all good and bad feelings together or I had none. As a child, none was preferred, but as an adult my feelings and ability to share them is obviously essential to experiencing a “normal and functional relationship”. So from time to time, this hidden place gets tested. Initially I become defensive and agitated, but I then recognize “this place”, from “that place”. Today I am safe and no one is attempting to harm or hurt me, like in the past, therefore I deliberately remove the blocks that allow me to retreat and hide.
I acknowledge that these layers are inhibitors to my overall growth and my ability to maintain a healthy relationship, and although the layers may always exist in my life, I am learning how to work through them with more effective prayer, applied wisdom and life changing grace. I am working towards a future that is not defined by my past and a relationship that is not haunted by layers of deceit, abuse and lies. I am living above the layers that attempt to bind me.