Friday, March 27, 2009

When is enough really enough? I'm seriously asking.

When is enough really enough? At what point should you draw a line in the sand in a relationship and say "I'm done"? I don't have a good answer to that question and it's really starting to bug me. I'm writing today in hopes of stirring some conversation and gaining some insight, or at least some new perspectives.

I don't think the root of my confusion can be found in human logic. From a logical and human perspective, I think those lines can sometimes be clear. If someone hurts you continually or is more selfish than not, maybe it's time to walk away. In my humanness, there have been times when I have felt like a relationship wasn't worth the work it required and I've wanted to walk away. I think that's normal and happens quite often in relationships. There seems to be a natural ebb and flow to life and people come and go from our lives and our relationships change.

But, what is the right thing to do? What is the godly thing to do? This is where I get frustrated. In the last few months I've spent some time reading Paul's epistles. The theme I see over and over again is that we are to love like Christ. That's what we're called to do. Love like Christ. What does that look like? What does that mean?

Does it mean that I keep loving someone who hurts me (intentionally or not) over and over again? Do I stay in relationship with that person? Is there a point when it's excusable to walk away?

I have a family member with whom I do not speak. She chose to be selfish, to lie, and to hurt my family intentionally. I feel as though it's appropriate for her to experience consequences for her actions. As a family, we have chosen not to be in relationship with her until she makes things right. And, part of me believes that's the best thing for all involved. Consequences are important teaching tools and, had she experienced more consequences in the past instead of being excused all of the time, perhaps she would have made different choices. But, there is a part of me that truly hates broken relationships and wonders if my family is going to have to make the first move to restore the relationship, even though the breach wasn't our fault. What if she never accepts responsibility? What if she never apologizes? What if it keeps happening? I keep hearing an echo in my heart...."70 times 7". But, does forgiveness have to mean restoration of the relationship? Can you really love someone, forgive what they've done, but not restore the fellowship? To me, that somehow feels incomplete.

In giving advice to a friend recently, I told her that things won't change overnight and that she had to choose to keep loving even when the person doesn't respond the way she hopes. Isn't that what we're supposed to do? Isn't that what Christ does for us? How often we reject Him and yet He loves us. He forgives us. He removes our sins from us as far as the East is from the West. So, who am I to choose to be unloving?

My fatal flaw seems to be that I feel things too deeply and too intensely. Once I have chosen to love someone, there's not much that can change it. It is a maddening quality to those who love me. They see me take hit after hit in relationships and yet not walk away. (Let me be clear that this does not involve physical abuse of any kind. I am only speaking of the wounds we inflict upon one another when we choose to be selfish or thoughtless or intentionally mean). I tend to hear "I told you so" a good bit. Maybe I'm just stubborn and hard-headed, but I hold on until there is absolutely nothing left to hold. I'm fierce about relationships that way. But, from the outside, it doesn't make sense.

In talking to another friend this week, I was told that my ability to love and feel so deeply is a truly beautiful thing when it's right. I believe that to be true. I believe we're supposed to keep on loving and keep on forgiving and keep on working on our relationships. We have to give each other grace and find a way to keep trying. What if it actually does make a difference? What if loving someone, regardless of what they say or do, actually begins to change them? Wouldn't that be beautiful?

But, how much of yourself do you give up in the process?

Over the years, I have learned to make better boundaries for myself and have found a way to guard my heart until a person can be trusted. That hasn't always been easy for me. But now I find myself behind walls I hoped never to have because I've been wounded and need to protect myself from further injury. I wish that wasn't necessary. It's unnatural and uncomfortable for me.

So, what's a person to do? I know myself well enough to know that I’m going to keep on choosing to love even when it doesn't make sense to people around me. I'm going to continue taking the flack and doing what I believe is right. I believe we're supposed to love like Christ. I want to become more and more like Him. I want to find ways to love people in my life who have done nothing to earn it and everything to destroy it. Is that crazy? Is it wrong? What am I missing? is encouraged and desired. Anyone have any thoughts?

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