I would be the first to say that I have struggled with trust issues all my life. My mother died when I was 18 months old – and anyone who is at all familiar with Erik Erikson’s stages of development will know that this is the pivotal time when trust develops. My trust mechanisms were significantly disrupted. Add to this a string of painful experiences in my life – most significantly a nearly 10 year relationship with an older woman that was deeply co-dependent and ended with her traumatic rejection of me …. and bingo …. you’ve got some big time trust challenges.
Now the beautiful thing about being in relationship with One who redeems, restores and heals, is that God has done a lot in my life to compensate for the wounds and hurts. As I’ve matured, I’ve learned to discern and have the courage to take risks in the trust department. But after many, many years of working on my “stuff”, I think part of my serenity is accepting that the deficits in my life that impact my ability to trust will likely never be completely 100% erased this side of heaven.
This was poignantly brought home to me again this past week when my husband and I went to see “The Reader” with Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes. In the story, a young boy becomes involved with an older woman. She disappears abruptly from his life without any explanation ….. and as the story unfolds we see a boy become a guarded, distant man – whose marriage crumbles, who takes lovers without emotional involvement, and whose relationship with his daughter is haunted by an inability to deeply connect. I saw myself in this character. In my post-film reflections I had much to be grateful for – a keen sense of “but for the grace of God in my life ……” At the same time, it also gave rise to connecting again with a sense of grief for things that had been taken from me, the hurts I did not seek, nor deserve….. and for the hurts that I have caused by the walls and inaccessibility of places in my heart – even to myself.
I take comfort, of course, in knowing that God isn’t finished with me yet. He is still restoring the broken places in my heart. He hasn’t given up on my marriage. And He continually blesses and restores me as I love my children.
But as both an introvert and a wounded soul, I regularly come face to face with my limitations in staying deeply connected to people beyond my most intimate circle of family and friends. It isn’t that I don’t want to love well. Sometimes I’m just not sure how to do so with so many different people who connect with me. I value relationships so much – but I face my finite supply of emotional energy all too often. And if I’m honest, sometimes I just feel uncertain about navigating all the different boundaries that my very eclectic and diverse assortment of personal connections require.
Navigating these kinds of realities is hard work. It requires the discipline of staying self-aware, growing in discernment, taking risks, forgiving yourself, extending grace to yourself and others.
I’ve seen some of this struggle at work in the aftermath of our decision to leave Exodus. There are many individuals who would point to their past involvement with New Direction as a hurtful, harmful experience. People speak of feeling ‘forced’ to live a lie, to live inauthentically. They share of raw experiences with deep depression and suicidal ideation. These are painful stories to encounter. My heart aches and wants to reach out, build a new relationship, listen well, grieve together, and look to the hope God is holding out for today and the future. I cannot undo the past. I cannot control people’s experience as they engage New Direction – neither past, nor present, nor in the future.
What I can do is commit to do everything I can to be part of creating a generous spaciousness where people can encounter the love of God and really wrestle to own their own beliefs and values and decisions. I can do my best to love well – knowing I will fall short and disappoint people. And I can commit to honesty, transparency and vulnerability.
But the truth is, not everyone wants to go have coffee with me. Not everyone is ready to risk engaging again. And I totally get that. It’s a trust thing. And I get the trust thing.
And the only way the trust thing will cease to be a barrier is through patient, consistent, integrity in living out our commitments to truly be a support and encouragement to gay people in their search for God in a non-patronizing, non-coercive manner.
And even then ….. it takes two to tango.
And I know that sometimes it is just too painful, too scary, and demanding of too much energy to tango.
I know and it is OK.
But know that you are loved. Your pain is grieved and repented for. And Jeremiah 29:11 is prayed over you: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
And if you ever come to the place where you consider having a coffee – the Chai tea is on me.
Grace and peace,