Responsibility plays a pivotal role in healing. I’d like to share with you how I was healed of a big wound and delivered from huge fear – at the same time. By following the Holy Spirit into a very painful memory, I was privileged to see with HIS eyes what had actually happened.
So, I’m sixteen and falling in love for the first time. Everything is new and equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. About eight months in, I’m just starting to get comfortable with this new world, and disaster strikes. My boyfriend and one of my friends since childhood “got together” (if you catch my meaning) and everybody knew but me. Heartbreak, betrayal, painful rejection and abject humiliation crashed down on me simultaneously – and the next day I had to go to school and face everybody.
It’s not exaggeration to say that I was devastated. My self worth, already tenuous, snapped and bottomed out. I had no idea how to navigate my way through any situation or relationship. Pitying looks and whispers bombarded me. And I couldn’t keep it together. I was so raw and broken that I couldn’t keep from exposing my heart even further. And there’s nothing so toxic to teenage social status as uncontrollable emotion.
When I finally agreed to revisit this experience with the Lord, I was quite astonished at what He showed me. The Spirit gently but inexorably took me through the eight months of relationship prior to heartbreak. I was not a victim; I was a perpetrator.
Did you know that fear blinds us and fuels great cruelty? I certainly didn’t, and it was a bucket of ice water in the face when I saw my actions through God’s eyes. See, at that time in my life, I was terrified of men. An old, old wound that shaped me and drove me. So from the beginning, I didn’t SEE my boyfriend; I saw a fear-colored version of him, an enemy. I didn’t see a young man who was also wounded. I didn’t see (or care about) his vulnerable heart or his own fragile self worth. I was fixated on me and my fear.
That fear entitled me to protect myself by being cold, thoughtless and cruel. For example, near the end of our relationship, this boyfriend told me that he loved me. I responded with, “I don’t love you, but I do like you a lot.” I then attempted to explain, using a chart, where he stood in my affection between “like” and “love.” I feel sick even typing that, but it fairly represents who I was in our relationship. He put himself out there, vulnerable in his honesty, and I slashed his heart and dismissed his person every time I felt scared. My cold cruelty was relentless, unchecked by either compassion or compunction. Fear was my justification.
I was reminded by the Spirit that years after all this happened, that ex-boyfriend told me just how devastated he was by me, by how I treated him – and by that “I love you” exchange in particular. I didn’t hear him or see it even then, because my heart was nearly dead by that time. Instead I blamed God and men and anybody but me. I was the victim, after all.
When the Lord showed me exactly who I was and what I’d done, well, the pain was almost crippling. What a blow to how I saw my entire life! Turns out, I was NEVER a soft, vulnerable victim. I was without excuse, and it was one of the most agonizing experiences of repentance I’ve ever known. I was absolutely desperate for God’s forgiveness. What I had done to that young man and to God (and to everyone in my life!) was unbearable.
On the other side of that huge repentance was enormous healing. That painful, seething wound was finally gone, along with a myriad of other greater and lesser wounds. Somehow the Lord took me back to the day I opened the door to that particular fear and gave it permission to rule me. I needed to take responsibility for my earliest response as a child and be forgiven – and I had to forgive myself just as completely.
This seemingly isolated incident was the catalyst for a huge change in my life back then; I turned my back on God and jumped headlong into destruction. Saying “yes” when my Lord asked me to revisit the pain – and face the truth – set off a chain reaction of repentance that reached all the way back to the beginning of my life. And ultimately, it was taking responsibility for my terrible choices that enabled my forgiveness and ushered in such deep inner healing of fear and bitterness.