I have someone in my life who, in the past, has made me feel small. But only because I filtered his motivation, words and actions through a lens that had been scratched and smudged with pain and hurt. I know for a fact that he has never set out to intentionally wound me, and for some reason I chose to respond to him in a victim-like way. Interesting that I was aware of this and yet I still behaved in this manner.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen him but last month, he showed up at my door to pick up my son and we chit-chatted for a few minutes. During our conversation, I remember experiencing the following things:
- Discomfort (feeling restless, not feeling myself)
- High emotions (getting worked up thinking about interacting with him)
- Anxiety (pacing the floor as I awaited his arrival)
Let me break this down:
He asked me how I was doing, and I interpreted that as interrogation. “Why does he care?” I thought.
He asked me how work was going, and I filtered it as him being nosy and getting all up in my business.
He told me how much he thought of my boys. I felt an automatic defense and protective mechanism go off inside of me.
But here’s the reality:
He asked me how I was doing because he’s a thoughtful person.
He inquired about my work because he wants to know that I’m doing okay.
He expressed a love for my boys because he cares about them very much.
After he left, I spent some time with God. “Why do I feel this way?” I asked. And do you know what I felt Him saying to me? “Because you haven’t let go of the past.”
Yes, I want to forgive. Yes, I want to grow. But it’s SO hard to work on these things in your life and be confronted with the fact that YOU ARE STILL STUCK. It’s the rounds we go with God…it’s the truth He reveals and the opportunity He gives for us to embrace the “stuck” and trust Him to pull us out.
Over the next few days, I thought about some of the things that took place between us that had made me feel this way. During my divorce, he and his wife showed up at my house to move out the items we had decided my FH would take to his new place. I identified that as the day I sunk deep into an emotional mud pit and my inability to let go and forgive has kept me there for the past few years. Some of my most significant healing has come through powerful encounters of forgiveness (I can’t wait to tell you about those), but in this case, I had been frozen in that pit and hadn’t yet been able to get out.
As I said goodbye to him at the door, God spoke to my heart. He gave me a sense that it was time to forgive. I knew what that meant…God was going to give me another opportunity to interact with him, a second chance to do things right.
Fast forward two weeks.
It was cold outside and my son’s football game had already started, so I was walking at a quick pace. As I approached the stadium entrance, I noticed a familiar face walking in from another direction. Here’s what crossed my mind:
- I haven’t seen him in months, now all of a sudden twice in a two-week period.
- Maybe he won’t see me.
- Run the other way.
I pulled out a $5 bill and made a beeline for the ticket booth. I reached around the people standing in front of the window and handed the money to the volunteer who gave me a ticket. I quickly went through the entrance, got my hand stamped and hoofed it to the guest bleachers. I parked myself next to a couple of moms I knew and scanned the area around me. I had made it undetected.
“What was that all about?” I thought to myself. One thing I have learned in my journey is to pause and ponder, and to go through “discovery” which is an honest evaluation of what is really going on.
I was trying to stay out of the sight of a man who, because of my pain-stained filter, made me feel small a couple weeks earlier. He had been nothing but kind to me, and yet I had chosen to respond by questioning his motives and putting walls up around my heart.
I looked around to see if I could find him, to see if he was seated somewhere near me. And guess who was walking down the bleachers at that moment? I made eye contact and asked if he would like to sit with me. I scooted over a few inches and made room…
Room for friendship.
Room for connection.
Room for reconciliation.
We spent the next couple of hours together. We laughed, caught up on life, talked about our dogs (we have Vizslas from the same litter), reviewed plays and gave our opinions on the ref calls. We even took a selfie and sent it to my FH. It was just me and him, in the most amazing, sacred and healing time we could have ever planned together.
Toward the end of the game, I blinked away tears as I embraced the second chance I had been given on this frigid evening, a gift of connection with my former father-in-law whom I had once loved deeply and respected so much. And I smiled as I realized the love was still there, it was just covered with a blanket of hurt that had slowly been removed under the warm Friday night lights. I would never have thought it would be his hand that would reach down and pull me from the emotional mud where I had been stuck the last five years. The irony was sweeter than I could have ever imagined.
Did you like this post? Please follow my blog and share on social media and with friends who could use some encouragement. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need to hear. It’s my way of paying it forward.