My wife has the following quote by Mark Twain hanging on our refrigerator.
Sing like no one is listening,
love like you have never been hurt,
dance like nobody's watching,
and live like it's heaven on earth.
I have to admit that I must have walked by it a thousand times without really taking much notice of it. And then one day, on the way to grabbing some leftover chicken, that second line just leaped out at me.
...love like you have never been hurt...
There is something so 'gardenesque' about this statement -- i.e. what Adam and Eve must have experienced before the fall. But now, is it even possible to be so unaffected by the bruising and wounding of relationships that have gone wrong, that we can open ourselves up and pour ourselves out as if we had nothing to fear or forget?
Candidly, I am the type of person that tries to repress and bury any hurts while rationalizing and minimizing their effect. In other words, I am prone to wear a mask of 'wholeness' even when inwardly I am falling apart. That's not as hard to do when the hurts come from those you are only incidentally involved with. But it is entirely different when the wounding comes from those that are closest to you.
Over the years the most profound woundedness in my life has come from those I considered friends and brethren. Those I shared life with on so many levels. We labored together, laughed together, cried together, prayed together, grew up together and on more than one occasion even bared our souls to each other. With them I had such a sense of connectedness that was so affirming, supportive and fulfilling. There just seemed to be so much right about those relationships both spiritually and naturally.
Then would come an incident of failure, betrayal, abandonment or personal assault that was just crushing. Not a minor slight or offense, but an incident so profound that it rocked my world to the core. And I would withdraw. And I would get cautious. And I would become fearful. The very thought of engaging in that kind of vulnerability, openness and 'risk' again was unimaginable.
I certainly was not inclined to believe that I could love like I had never been hurt.
I read once that "the central damage found in any wound is in its ability to change our identity." It went on to say, "It isn't just the pain of what was done — we can get past pain through a healthy grief process. The “damage” is done when we change the identity to match the event, person or circumstance so that we ARE now that event, person or circumstance in some small or large way."
I think this is a powerful concept to understand in our Christian life. If we are really trying to live authentically, we are going to be vulnerable to being hurt profoundly by those closest to us on occasion. It's not something we plan or anticipate, it is just the consequence of engaging others with an open heart who are "broken" in some kind of way.
We have to be willing to accept that risk and understand that if, or when, those times of wounding come, that the real danger is not in the pain of the moment, but how the event affects how we see ourselves. If we internalize the sin of another and begin to accept the suggestion that we are guilty, shameful, reprehensible and unlovable, rather than who God says we are, then the wound lives on and the damage to our lives and other relationships is magnified.
If I am going to love like I have never been hurt, I need to:
1. Embrace who God says I am.
Regardless of what happens to me, God says I am holy, righteous, blameless, beloved, treasured, secure, washed, anointed, good-hearted, pure-hearted, esteemed, accepted, honored and much, much more -- even on my worst day! Damage occurs in my life when I buy the lie of the enemy that says none of that is true, even on my best day.
2. Forgive others for myself.
My breakthrough moment of healing came when I experienced what it was to truly forgive someone. I was sitting there praying about all the things that had happened to me and my family as a result of a particularly disastrous situation, when I was filled with such an overwhelming and overflowing sense of forgiveness for those who had wounded me. For weeks after that I would find myself overflowing in prayer, several times a day, for their well-being, prosperity, and blessing. It just poured out of me and I began to realize that forgiving them was God's gift of healing for me! It was not about their repentance, it was about me being free to live out of who God says I am.
3. Face my fear in faith.
Fear is our natural defense against threat and danger. When I get hurt it naturally makes me fearful and cautious about the circumstance that caused the pain. If we are touching hot stoves that is a good thing, if we are seeking to live authentically as Christ did, not so much. I need to face my fear of being hurt again in faith, knowing that by being vulnerable, opening myself up and extending myself to another, I am following in the steps of Jesus. Having loved his disciples in the world, he loved them to the end -- even when they were doubting, abandoning and betraying him. He did not shut down and retreat. He did not throw up a wall and reject them. He continued to extend himself in love. And he is calling us to the same fearless love!
Loving this way will certainly help our singing, dancing and living like it is heaven on earth!