I love Shauna Niequist. Maybe in a kind of stalker-ish way. I adore her writing and her recipes. I am a huge fan of her dad, Bill Hybels, her mother Lynne, and the amazing ministry they have accomplished all together at Willow Creek. Their family truly inspires me. I have seen Bill talk 3 times in person, and every.single.time, I sob like a baby.
And I absolutely loved this post written by Shauna.
The problem I have with it, though? I couldn’t relate to it.
After reading it, I felt like I was from another planet.
Let me explain.
I am, by my very nature, a fighter.
I was an extremely sensitive kid. And just between you and me, I still am (Shhh, don’t tell anyone). And after almost 40 years of life on this planet, and as a parent with 4 children with unique personalities and temperaments, I think the world is just plain harder for us sensitive types than it is for others. The message I received very early on was that this world is a tough and scary place. If you were soft and tender, this world would swallow you and eat you alive. So for the sake of self preservation, I became tough. Hard. I put on a tough exterior, because deep down, I was terrified. I learned to fight, be snarky and sarcastic. But secretly, I walked through this life feeling broken-hearted, confused, hurt, and scared. All the time.
And so, I got really good at fighting.
In the cyber world, I have left so many pointless comments and commentaries on events and people that I now regret. And thanks to TimeHop and Facebook’s On This Day feature, I can now relive those cringworthy moments every single day!
It has been a good reminder though. What can I say or do today, that I can be proud of in one year from now? Two years from now?
And in the real world, I have said things I wish I could take back; used my words for destruction instead of edification.
As I said, I’m really good at fighting. But I want to change that. Fighting is exhausting. I am racking up too much collateral damage, and I am ready to lay down my guns.
Truthfully, I don’t know what it’s like to default to love mode; to be a lover and not a fighter. But I am willing to learn. There’s a lot at stake here: relationships and a future generation to raise. It’s a lot like learning a foreign language, one that isn’t your native tongue. It’s awkward. Meaning and intent often get lost in translation. And you mess up and have to start over again. And again. And again.
The truth is this world is scary and hurtful. And I think for a many of us, our natural inclination is to become hard and put on a tough shell so that the world can’t hurt us anymore. We try to protect ourselves. But then you find yourself alone and lonely. And even though it is true that there is a lot of evil in this world, we live in a world created by God, with so much beauty and possibility and potential. And if I am constantly scanning the horizon for potential threats, am I not forfeiting the beauty that is standing right in front of me?
In my children’s laughter.
In my husband’s embrace.
In a text from a new friend.
In the prayer from my beloved sister.
In the community of friends and family of which I am blessed to be a part.
It goes on. Yes, bad and scary things happen. But so do wonderful, beautiful things. And they truly do outweigh the bad.
Through years of therapy, I learned that anger is a secondary emotion, usually the result of primary emotions like hurt or fear. Coincidentally, it is also the second stage in the grieving process. I realized that after years of walking around angry, my default mode, that there must be some hurt (or for me, multiple hurts) that left the original scar. And to move on to acceptance and forgiveness, we must properly grieve, giving ourselves time and space and room to mourn our losses. You can’t bypass this process. It can often take years.
Those of us walking around angry all the time owe it to ourselves, and our loved ones, to dig deep and ask the painful questions…who are we angry with or what are we angry about? What is the original hurt that caused this wound? What makes us so afraid to love or reach out? To trust? What made us so willing to fight? And so ready to attack?
It’s embarrassing. If I feel threatened, I attack. I lash out. It’s like an involuntary reflex and I am trying to retrain my muscles not to betray me.
Fight? Or flight?
Or maybe there is another option. One that I cannot do on my own and without God’s help: to love. To turn the other cheek.
There is only one thing I have found, strong enough to break through this shell of mine. Powerful enough to withstand angry outbursts or wounded retreats. Brave enough to stay with me, hold me, believe in me, fight for me when I am at my very worst.
That is Love. Namely, the love that comes from God. It looks so very different from any other I’ve seen.
Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him. – 1 Corinthians 14:4-7 (TLB)
Sadly, you don’t see this kind of love in people every day. It is rare. So rare, in fact, that when you do see it, you know that you are touching God. You are seeing evidence that He exists and is more powerful than any force on this planet. And has the incredible capability of changing even the most hardened of us. Loving us in all our brokenness and hard heartedness. A love that stays and doesn’t leave, walks with us, and makes us whole.
In John 13:35, Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Not argue or debate with one another or leave snarky comments.
For me, the choice to be a lover and not a fighter has been the hardest ever for me. The battle I will wage for the rest of my life. But a battle I am willing to fight. And hopefully win.
So what does this look like in my daily life?
When I feel the need arise in me to argue, debate, or lash out (i.e., fight), I will hold my tongue, unless I have something positive, encouraging, and loving to say.
When I feel the need arise in me to isolate myself, to pull away from my loved ones (i.e., flight), I will be brave and reach out, risking rejection.
It’s a lot like exercise and rehabilitation. Forcing and training your body and brain to do things it absolutely does not want to do. But the joy and the results it produces in the end are worth the fight.
Choosing to let this world make me better, not bitter; softer, not harder. Maybe I can use this fighter’s instinct for good and not evil. If I choose to fight, I will fight for love.