“If I don’t protect myself, nobody will”.
Trust issues, anyone? We may pick up beliefs that initially serve a purpose, but become burdens later on. In my case, the thought that trust is a luxury I can’t afford is one of them.
Somewhere along the way, I decided it was better to have no positive expectations than to keep cultivating my long-term relationship with disappointment. Thus began my training in the art of emotional wall building.
Not to brag but I did pretty well: I no longer cared. Circumstances could change without having much of an impact on me, and people became instruments that were valuable as long as they served my purpose. Before I knew it, I had broken up with disappointment and was casually dating resentment. It came with anger, extreme isolation and anxiety, but at least I was coping on my own.
Oh. God was there too.
Unfortunately, by the time I had made the conscious decision to seek Him, my distrust for others was ingrained in my subconscious. I had forgotten many things… like the fact that I was once joyful, hopeful and inquisitive. I had learned to keep my head down and to move forward.
Enters 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
Oh. That verse.
Yes, I heard it all my life. It is a staple at weddings, and you simply can’t call yourself a Christian without occasionally feeling guilty for not being loving enough. But as I walked with Christ, my desire for community and service for others grew. I could no longer escape the fact that there was a huge disconnect between 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and my systematic lack of concern for others.
Determined to move forward with God, I thanked Him for this newfound desire to love others and prayed that He would empower me to act accordingly. Then, I prayed for patience when interacting with others. Then for grace. Then for hospitality. Then for authenticity. Then for strength. Then for nothing. I was exhausted.
I began to entertain the thought that God should have given me a different personality if He truly wanted me to love as He does.
Enters 1 John 4:7-8
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Darn it. It’s set in stone.
I should have rejoiced but I was too busy doubting my salvation. If 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 wasn’t happening in my heart and in my life… did I truly know God? Was I claiming to know and love Him in vain? Was I still lost?
I wasn’t lost. I was running into stone walls, locked doors and barbed wires. I wasn’t asking God to teach me to love as He did. I was asking Him to teach me to love from the safety of the fortress that I had built and forgotten about. I was frustrated at myself for my apparent inability to love as God does, and at God for His apparent lack of interest in expediting the process.
Despite my lack of faith in Him, God chose to show me that in my case, the path to love would have to start with trust. What was once buried and forgotten had to resurface.
I wish it were easy to come face to face with the truth. To let God touch what is painful. To let Him tear down, brick by brick, what we truly rely on. It may not be easy, but in my experience with Him so far, it is worth it.
It’s as if God gives meaning to our praises as we walk with Him, and allows us to experience different aspects of His character. As our experiences catch up with our praises, the terminology we so often use to worship Him starts to make sense.
Suddenly, it clicked: I had a protector all along.