I wrestle with walking away something fierce. It seems to have always been this way. When I was younger, I think it was from a place of innocence, the notion absurd that anyone would hurt another person intentionally. Holding onto a belief that with enough love anyone can change—their hearts had just grown too cold and hard, like they do in the movies—the Beast, the Grinch, you know. My favorite was Mrs. Snow, the cranky hypochondriac in Pollyanna (really dating myself here).
As I got older I learned, as we do, that people are capable of hurting us for no other reason than because they want to and they think they can. Maybe it’s territorial—you are a perceived threat to a friendship or their image. Maybe it’s to advance in a social circle or fit in. Maybe they are even spending time thinking about how and when (this makes me nauseous). Or perhaps you simply told them no. And then it became complicated.
While the reasons may vary, we find ourselves at a point that we cannot do this thing anymore. We realize either through pain, or the awakening that comes from it, that it is taking too much from us, or of us to stay. And we aren’t willing to give that of ourselves anymore. Not because we aren’t kind, but because we believe in the calling on our lives and the things we are here to do—and we aren’t willing to give that up in exchange.
So what do we do when we find ourselves in this place, this tension, between what we are being asked to give and what we are no longer willing to give?
It is this hard place between the two, where we need to go back a few steps to move forward. We sit with a question and listen to our response to it—what do we think of people who walk away? Essentially asking ourselves what would we think of ourselves if we left? What comes to mind? Take in the visceral response to the question and if someone has walked away from you, how it made you feel. It’s also important to recognize the difference here between walking away and abandoning—a choice of self over other rather than valuing other and self.
My father left us when I was four. That was my first taste of being abandoned and it is a whole story in and of itself (for another time) with a strong thread of redemptive grace, but that is the first thought that comes to mind for me. No matter how I have tried to escape it. And it doesn’t take me long to make the connection that I don’t want to be known as someone who leaves. I would rather be known for staying. I am a dig my heels in and figure this thing out kind of person. I am open to hard conversation, I want truth and honesty. I have walked through pain and pain again. I am not afraid of another’s pain, I want to sit with them in it, pull them through—a let’s find the door, or break the window together, friend.
I don’t leave people. I love people.
Love Does! Love Wins! Love Your Neighbor! These are the fully beautiful and rich messages today. I eat these up and adore the deeply rooted parts of each. And I feel shame when I think of walking away after reading these messages about acceptance, grace, and mercy. All good, amazing things I acknowledge my desperate need for, and so I keep wrestling. And I imagine you do too because these are important to us. And I am so glad we care about these things, let’s not ever stop.
And, let us care for ourselves too?
It was as if the heavens parted open while listening to a podcast (forgive me for not remembering which one, maybe Annie F. Downs, That’s Sounds Fun). Bob Goff is asked something about what he does about folks who are just trying to get at him. And I imagine this incredibly happy and kind smiley guy that I am sure Bob Goff is (admittedly we haven’t met), and he says, “I block them.” What! Bob Goff blocks people on Facebook?! It was like saying Bob Ross paints sad little trees. (Not sure why I am making that connection between the two), but I cannot tell you what permission that gave me. Well if the kindest, gentlest, Everybody Always, man on the planet can block people, so can you Michelle! Now to be real, I don’t think this is something he does often or on a whim, but he sets boundaries, guards his heart, and well it was really good for this heart to hear and maybe yours too?
While I appreciate the lightness Bob Goff gave me, more poignant than anything are the places in Scripture that talk about Jesus walking away. I tend to remember the seventy-times-seven verses, the turn the other cheek, and please know I am not taking anything away from those. How could I? I just want us to also remember that Jesus didn’t turn into the Pharisees or concede His way to the crowd’s desires. When His disciples thought the cost of His life too great, He still moved on knowing their betrayal in advance. For sometimes what we are walking away from is the sacrifice for what we are walking toward. That is the distinction, therein lies the peace.
When we walk away from someone or something and we walk more fully into ourselves, as God created us, we are walking within His care. If it draws us nearer to Him, it is good. It may hurt deeply and feel like dying with all that is stripped away. It may be humbling, humiliating even, and lonely. It’s not something we take lightly, if it’s a deep relationship, a long-standing friendship, it is a deep wound. There will be assumptions and whispers and it will hurt, but you will make it through. Let us not second guess the choice in the pain. Don’t stay mentally after you’ve
walked away physically.
When the time arises, as I tell my boys, we move with purpose, and sometimes that looks like walking away in silence. Sometimes the offense is so great, we may lose our words. As we find ourselves on this threshold, let us hold onto the knowing that there is grace on the other side. We don’t walk away as a middle-finger at someone, we have made a thoughtful decision guided by prayer. We have conversed with wise, discerning people who will tell us truth wrapped in grace, but still honest truth. Ones who know the whole story. We move intentionally. And now, we breathe and let the tangled knots of our insides release. There has been a slow leak of joy and we know where it’s coming from. We are not bad or flawed because we couldn’t make it work. You are still someone who stays, even when you—
Walk away from unhealthy expectations, both yours and theirs.
Walk away from someone who needs to be convinced they’ve hurt you.
Walk away from those who say they speak for God, but their words are self-serving.
Walk away from what life should have looked like.
Walk away from you inner critic and its untruths.
Walk away from the lies.
Walk away from becoming bitter.
Walk away from pain that has no purpose, no refining value.
Walk away from people who keep a record of your wrongs.
Walk away from people who only want you around if you are happy.
Walk away from any version of yourself that isn’t true.
Walk away from all that enslaves you.
Walk toward truth, stay in the truth, found only in Christ.
A few resources to help
Pastor Rick Warren’s Daily Hope podcast series on Grace from October 2018, brought me life.
The Psalms, God keeps circling me around chapters 40 and 41. Read them, let root deeply in your heart. He has got you!
My heart behind this post
Walking away now doesn’t mean forever, it means being kind to yourself, valuing yourself as God’s child too. For some of us it’s easier to care for everyone else’s heart and forget our own. Some who are in their peak won’t meet you in your valley, but you know the One who will.
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