I’m a bit of a loner. Yup. Surprise, surprise.
But see, there is a reason. It’s not just that I’m more “task-oriented” than others, (though that’s part of it) or that I’m an introvert (though that’s part of it, too) it’s also because I decided years ago – after feeling forgotten by others so easily – that it would be less painful if I learnt to be content with being by myself. So I did. And I got on quite well for several years. Despite my self-isolation, some brave and beautiful souls at University did manage push themselves into my heart. But I seldom let others carry me; I wanted to be “the strong one” and I was afraid that, if they saw the ‘real me’ they would drop me. So I was always extremely careful about who and how much I relied on other people.
And then, not too long ago, I was shown that I’m not as content or as wise or as strong as I thought. I opened up, made mistakes, got hurt in ways I didn’t think possible, and fell hard. My immediate reaction was retreat; retreat once again behind the walls, refuse to let anyone touch me. I decided that the answer was to stop giving, to stop sharing my heart, to stop showing people I cared, to go back to being ‘happy’ as a loner.
Then I wouldn’t get hurt again.
But I’m beginning to realize that this might not be the best course of action. Closing myself off may keep me from people who can hurt and leave me, but it still causes pain. Closing myself off makes me bitter, it makes me seem cold, callous and uncaring, it leads me to be suspicious of all who approach and to treat them like potential enemies, instead of potential friends. It perpetuates my self-focused fear, my self-absorption. Letting people in may lead to being hurt, but closing people out can do just as much (and maybe even more) damage.
Besides, even though being hurt is, well, painful (duh) and wounds take time to heal – sometimes the scars and twinges are with us for the rest of our lives, sometimes they disappear completely – but most of the time they teach us to recognize and be more sensitive to the hurts in others.
I think I’m learning (but I’m a slow learner) that the answer isn’t isolation: pretending not to care may hurt less than caring, but I’m tired of pretending not to care. I want to keep caring. I want to keep trusting. So the answer isn’t withdrawal; its love. Wise, forgiving, gentle love.
But love is a burden. I promise I’m not saying that in any tragic-romance, Spiderman-(whatever-her-name-is) kind of way, nor in a woe-is-me, people-are-jerks kind of a way. I’m saying it with sobriety and with hope. Truth is, we’ll never find someone who will always treat us right, we’ll never find someone who won’t hurt or disappoint or forget to see us. We’re human. That’s the sober reality. The hope part is that this doesn’t mean we have to stop loving others, it means that real, through-the-pain love is so precious that we should keep reaching for it! If we manage to keep it going, to keep loving and trusting others, knowing that they might (and probably will) hurt us, and that we’ll hurt them back, if we forgive and ask for forgiveness – then this dismal world will be a little lighter.
I’m not saying that’s easy but at least I only have one lifetime to love and get hurt by people. Just imagine having every lifetime and every life – what a burden God’s love must be to Him! We humans, the very children He created out of love, just keep walking away and rebelling; we keep chasing after others and telling Him we don’t need Him, we flick Him away like dust off our shoulders, we scream in anger when we don’t understand. To my shame, I’ve done it all. And there’s like a gajillion souls in the world – each of them (us) has hurt and left Him in some way/form/time.
God has the biggest burden of all. For some reason, that makes me want follow Him the most. It gives me such hope that I (and others) can live through my bumbling attempts to care for people.
So, following His lead, I have to try to not close myself off. I have to learn to desperately and sincerely, and (more often than not) clumsily love the people He’s brought into my heart and life. Even knowing that I may well fall hard, again.