“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13).
Children are free. Children follow their own instincts and do not let anything restrict them. They can trust anyone that their parents or caregivers say are safe. If children have good relationships with their parents, babysitters, teachers, or relatives, they can trust the people that these authority figures put in their lives.
As children get older, their dreams fade. They encounter people that abuse their innocence, hurting them in the process. So they stop dreaming. They stop taking risks. Their teenage years are filled with angst, because there is a battle between what they want to do and what they should do. Ex-lovers, step parents, and classmates continue to tell them to stop hoping. To protect the little hope that they have, they close their hearts. No one can take this from me, they say, swearing that they will build up walls, not just against negativity, but against everyone and everything. Without taking risks, their hope dies, and there is nothing left but bitterness and limitations.
Last blog post, I talked about the importance of community. However, I understand that asking help from others and living in community involves taking risks. You need to be vulnerable, and that’s not easy. How do you know that those who are around you will not tear you down instead of build you up?
I know what it feels like to have someone tear me down. There was an issue that I was struggling with that no one knew about at the time. I opened up my heart and shared this struggle with someone I knew. Instantly, this person tried to fix me by giving me Bible verses and telling me that the way I was handling it was not right. In that moment, my feelings were not validated. Since then, I could not tell anyone about this issue. I closed my heart.
In my last semester of college, I became part of a small group of women that claimed that they were a safe community. Nevertheless, when I first met them, I made a promise to myself: I will not tell anyone about my deep issue. Telling people will not help. It will only make it worse. Eventually, after getting to know the group, I realized that they were trustworthy people.
One day, I didn’t feel like being at our meeting. One of my friends looked at me. “You look like you need to talk.” I didn’t. Well, at least, I didn’t think I needed to talk. But since she asked, I started talking. I mentioned very basic concerns that I had. Then I stopped. Everyone looked at me, waiting for me to finish. I went a little bit deeper. Then I stopped. I knew where this was going. They looked at me again. Apparently, it was obvious that I needed to share. I opened my heart up completely. What had locked up my heart for years was spewed out in front of me onto the floor. I couldn’t stop talking.
I stared at the floor, refusing to look up. I just wanted my friends to go away, hoping that they wouldn’t judge me like I knew they would. One of my friends said, “Look up!” Finally, I did. They simply smiled at me. As we hugged, a few of them told me that they were proud of me and that they already saw a difference in me. No one said anything judgmental. They had proven their promise. They are a safe community. They became my close friends. I didn’t only open up to them; they opened up to me. Because of their trustworthiness, it became easier for me to open my heart.
But how did I get there in the first place? The only reason I could give is that the Lord is my defender. Since God is faithful, if all else fails (and honestly, all else will fail), I know I can trust God. My friends are a gift from God, so I can trust them. If I can’t trust them…well, I’ve been hurt before, and it hasn’t killed me yet! Regardless of what you’re going through, the way to be free is to open up your heart.
Now that you are mature, you are not bound by the restrictions of other people. The only thing holding you back is your own fears. Let yourself dream. Don’t be afraid of risks. Risks may be scary, but that voice telling you to stop has no power anymore. Be childlike and trust those around you in confidence that nothing they can do will destroy you.