Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Spiritual Rehab

“There is a time for everything…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,” Ecc. 3:1, 4

My heart has gone through “spiritual rehab” this year. It’s been a tough year, what I affectionately call a “faith-building” experience.

Perhaps the most difficult challenge to face was the end of a dear friendship. Rejection in any form is never easy; when it comes from one of your closest friends, well, that’s a bitter pill to swallow no matter how you sugarcoat it.

And so came a time to mourn. I humbly say that these were not my finest hours. I did a lot of whining to God. Sometimes, I pleaded with Him for the restoration of this friendship; other times, I pleaded for Him to take away any desire on my part to be friends again. Basically, I was a whiny brat who wouldn’t shut up to God about it. (How merciful He is! He could have struck me mute like Zechariah!)

I went the route of isolating myself from nearly everyone in an ill-conceived attempt to protect from being rejected by any other friends. I’d still hang out with my friends, still joke and laugh and talk about my day, but I had a hard time letting anyone in to see the real me for a while. Basically, I wanted to rest my heart, whisk it away to some secluded spa for a little R&R. And all the while, my heart was wasting away from lack of use.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” I John 5:7-8

So I found myself in spiritual therapy. Physical therapy rehabilitates injured body parts so they can be used again. Spiritual therapy rehabs the heart. And it has been a painful process, grueling at times. Part of my regimen has been extending love to people who hurt me—including this former friend—and praying for them as well. That has at times been challenging, but it’s gotten a lot easier throughout the year.

I’ve had to let go of a lot of hurts that I’d held onto, a lot of baggage that had become a security blanket of sorts for me. I’ve been called to forgive those who hurt me, and to also take a good hard look at how I’ve hurt other people, especially in this friendship. I had to own up to a lot of mistakes that I’d made, and that was a very humbling process. I had to make peace with the regrets I had about how things ended and learn to leave those in the past and move on.

The more I’ve exercised my heart, especially when I didn’t feel like it, the more I’ve seen God working in me. My fear of being hurt again, although not completely vanished, has dramatically decreased. I’m giving more of myself and once again opening myself up to my old friends and to the new friends God has brought into my life this year.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

The blessings have been immeasurable. This loss, thankfully, ended up drawing me so much closer to God. As He had been there in other storms I’d weathered, He proved Himself to be my truest Friend in every sense of the word. My faith has deepened dramatically, my walk with Him much closer, and my peace and joy infinitely increased.

It also drew me closer to those friends who I did confide in and make myself vulnerable to during this time. Their unwavering support, love, encouragement, and occasional rebuking often gave me strength. I praise God for their seemingly unlimited patience and care with me. They truly were (and are) an extension of God’s hands to me.

And—miracle of miracles—I no longer hurt when I talk to this former friend, no longer automatically put myself on guard when they’re around. I’ve been freed to truly love them unconditionally, and not just because I’m commanded to, but because I truly want to. One of those kooky unexpected side-effects of this rehab.

So there’s a lot of good that’s come out of this year, countless blessings in the middle of the rehab. I’m thankful that my heart is stronger now, perhaps stronger than it has ever been. I’m thankful that none of this experience has been wasted—God has truly worked these things for my good (Rom. 8:28). Let the dancing begin!

Don’t stop loving,



Rhonda said...

What can I say? Your words brought me to tears! I've felt a lot of these same feelings...rejection from friends, "protecting" my heart, isolating myself. It all hurts, but you are right when you say it strengthens you and builds your faith. Thank you so much for sharing this! You have no idea how much this helped me to read this tonight! You are a blessing!

Steve Age - 64 said...

I met a group of people who were deep into their Spirituality, which I also am - though I am a newcomer.
I fell in love with them, each individually, and collectively. I knew they were a commune and felt elated they would let me visit and interact.
Suddenly, the leader/teacher gave me an ultimatum, that I leave my family and join them, or stay away. It broke my heart to have to decide. He said I was on too slow a track and basically ex-communicated me. I can have no contact.
I spent the day at the beach asking Jesus for help. Sending them love and goodwill. But my heart aches.
Lisa, your words have helped me immensely. I appreciate being able to dwell on another perspective, which tells me this too will pass, and I will continue to grow and be stronger. Thanks.