Relationships can be a tricky thing. They can be difficult and messy. They can cause us heartache and pain.
If we’ve been hurt in ministry, we can tend to pull back from the church as a whole.
When friendships have caused us heartache, we often choose to retreat.
Family lets us down and we learn to keep those closest to us at arm’s length.
We retreat to our safe corners, we set our fists in a defensive stance, and we harden our hearts because the pain…?
Well, the truth is that it hurts.
Self-preservation and the avoidance of pain are natural responses. Healthy relationships and proper boundaries are a good thing. But we must also take great care to tread cautiously when it comes to putting up walls that are intended to keep the hard things at a distance.
You see, growth happens as a result of difficulties.
We will hurt others and others will hurt us. But it is in the working out of our misunderstandings that we learn from one another.
It is in the humility of an apology that we learn to consider the perspective of another, whether we agree with them or not.
It is in offering true forgiveness, deserved or not, that we live out the forgiveness of Christ on the cross.
Extending mercy, even when it is really, really hard, reminds us of how much mercy God has poured out on us through His Son Jesus Christ.
Jesus is all about relationships.
He put himself out there no matter the cost. He was ridiculed and scorned. He was misunderstood and rejected. He hung on a cross and died, not because it was comfortable, but because it was necessary.
Friends, there is nothing wrong with using wisdom and discernment in relationships to protect ourselves from those that would cause us unnecessary harm. But, let us also remember that relationships are beautiful – even the really hard ones.
Let us build healthy boundaries but not walls that keep others out.
Let us resolve not to keep others at an arm’s length because when we let them in, our hearts can be changed.
For our good.
For their benefit.
For His glory.
We will hurt others and they will hurt us. We will fail. We will fall.
The key is picking ourselves up out of the dirt, dusting off the hurt, and trying again.
Because it is in the trying that lives are touched. It is in the challenge that we are changed. It is in the loving that we find true love.
And we can’t love if we don’t let others into the depth of our hearts.
“You will know that you are my disciples when you love one another.”