I have made a career out of dieting. I know all the good diets, the bad ones, the completely ridiculous ones and the ones that should just be plain old common sense. I can count calories, count points, count steps and count the beats of my heart during cardio. I’m not obsessed with it, it just gives me motivation to stay healthy and fit. I can and have given up all sorts of food. Dairy (because I am allergic) gluten (because everyone was doing it) sugar (because, well, it’s sugar) meat and even eggs (because there for a while, someone said they were bad for us). At this point in my life, food is fuel, I enjoy it, but I can quit eating any combo of the above, at any point, and it doesn’t faze me at all.
Losing the option to eat sugar (an obvious, self-imposed restriction) is easy, but the many other things I have had to let go of (beyond my control) in the last 3.5 months, have been heartbreaking.
Security, safety, a well-functioning home life, my daughter, who was also my best friend, my dreams, my future, my plans and my purpose. Losing so much, leaves a person in a very vulnerable position, one that can trigger a couple different responses, neither of which are healthy or Biblically sound.
One thought that immediately became very real, was a need to hold on tight to everything and everyone. God has unimaginably blessed me with some amazing new friends to walk beside me recently. My initial response to these new friendships was to close my fist around them and hold on as tight as I could. I also became aware that I was doing the same thing to Jim and Evie and my family. Leaving these people with little room to breathe or heal or function, becoming dependent on anyone other than the Lord, is a dark place to be, because as tight as you hold on, in the back of your head, you realize, they too can be taken away. It creates a circle of fear with no finish line. The Holy Spirit gently revealed to me where I was at fault, and I have slowly been releasing my grip, maybe one finger at a time, but in doing so, I have watched many of the above relationships begin to thrive, like a flower in a desert land.
The second response, also one I struggle with, is at the complete opposite end of the scale. It’s what I like to call the Wall-Building Response to Tragedy. It has been my defense mechanism my whole life. Just put up more walls, block people out, block feelings out, block pain or hurt out, block loss out. Just keep stacking the bricks higher and higher, after all, I still have the Lord in my little fortress of solitude, what else do I need? And I know He will never leave me. This is also, an incredibly debilitating response, and the Holy Spirit prompts me, often, to let this one go. In boxing myself in, I box so much out. If I get afraid of losing people and I push them away, I have taken God’s perfect plan of fellowship, and told Him, it might work for other people, but it’s not for me. I end up boxing out the comfort that other people can provide, I box out the joy that new friendships bring and I box out the security of life-long relationships, with the people who know me the best. None of which was God’s design. He created us with a strong desire to be with other people. To open our hearts and souls to others, because there is strength and growth for all parties involved.
So what is the correct response then? If I can’t hold on too tight, but I can’t keep pushing people away, how am I supposed to properly deal with this loss? I wish I had the perfect answer. I wish I had it all figured out. I wish the Holy Spirit was less willing to show my what I’m doing wrong and more willing to just tell me what to do next. I wish for so many things.
So I land somewhere in between on this scale. And I fluctuate back and forth like a teeter-totter, often multiple times, with the same people. Sometimes I push people away, just to hold on too tight. I’m desperate to tell my best friends how I am feeling, just to get them face-to-face and build a wall (which often looks and sounds like small talk). But I am a work in progress. I remind myself daily of 2 Corinthians 4: 8 & 9 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
What does center look like? I’m not entirely sure, because I don’t know many people who live their lives perfectly balanced, but I have a crazy close relationship with the One who did. And what I learned and am learning from Him is how to love people…unashamed, unrestricted and unafraid. But, in that massive, fierce love, He was willing to walk away from all those relationships to serve His purpose and to carry out God’s perfect plan, knowing that the end result was Glory, a place where we will never be separated again.
If I can live like Jesus did, letting people in, but also letting people go, really, what do I have to lose?