I don’t know how many times I tell my children, if some stranger knocks on our door at anytime during the day or night, they should under no circumstances open the door. But the other day, my daughter heard a knock and raised herself up to her tippy-toes to peer inside the peep hole to see who it was. Instead of asking, she thought the person looked either like my son’s best friend from high school or best friend from church, so she promptly opened the door.
There before her stood a kid selling candy door-to-door and asked if her parents were home. It could have been anyone. You just don’t open the door unless you are sure. I’ve preached this, I’ve taught her this. It’s the safe thing to do. But she reasoned that since it looked like someone familiar, and had a friendly knock, it was probably someone she knew. Only it wasn’t.
How often I have done that to my own heart in the last year. Every single time communication occurs between me and Martin I think it is the Martin I used to know. The one I remember, who was supportive, friendly, and loving. And yet, time and time again I have been shellshocked by a barrage of grenades going off blasting me verbally leaving me wounded.
Each encounter I get more and more hesitant to open the door. After a few emails that were exchanged over the past two days, so far, I have not gotten the blast – but I’m bracing for it.
I talked to Harry about whether I should be talking to Martin at all. Since Harry has been around as my friend from the beginning, he is very understanding and knows the whole story. I know what some of you think because you have told me via email that you want me to stay away from him altogether. But I wondered to Harry that if I felt strong enough and not vulnerable to him in anyway, and I thought that by talking to him I could give him some kind of closure or help him in some way, maybe it was worth the risk for me to open that door.
My regular routine is to check my phone one last time before I turn it on silent, charge it up, and close my eyes. But last night, as I lay my head on my pillow, I realized as I checked my phone that I was physically ill as my brain raced through a thousand different scenarios and memories. I tapped the mail app and cringed as if I was about to get hit hard. When the screen’s update was complete and there was no new email, I let go the breath I was holding and relaxed my grip.
I didn’t sleep well last night either. And when I woke up this morning, I realized that this is what abuse feels like. I remember when I was a kid and I braced for a smack. It’s a horrible feeling that mixes vulnerability, fear, and defiant courage. Only, when I was a kid, I had no power to control being exposed to it or not. Now I do. I can make a choice not to subject myself to it anymore. And I determined on my bed this morning that I would make the choice to protect myself instead of opening the door.
I have to admit that this goes against my very nature. When I was ten my dad and I got held up by a man with a gun. Without even thinking I jumped in front of my father to protect him. He promptly lifted my butt up in the air and put me behind him which I ended up being very grateful to him for. But my gut said, “You have to get through me before you get to someone I love.”
I would do the same thing in family fights. I would get in the middle of it like a referee getting kicked and bruised in the process, but I knew if I didn’t do that someone else would get more hurt. So I stepped in. Almost to shock them into realizing what they were doing. It usually worked.
I think I’m stronger than I am. I tell myself I won’t get hurt and when I do I’m surprised. I’m a fighter. I can’t help it. And I’m way too trusting and as Harry says it, I would give Hitler the benefit of the doubt. I disagree with him, but I get his point. And maybe he’s right in theory. I want to believe that people are good. I want to believe they work under the same set of fairness rules. But they don’t.
I want to think Martin can’t hurt me again. That his mean words and anger will roll right off and I will do more good for him than he will do harm to me. I think about how God has called us to love others. And my role in his spiritual life. But as a good friend said long ago….I need to trust God to give Martin what he needs. If I am not strong enough I need to step aside. I have other priorities in my life. God is big enough to meet Martin’s needs some other way.
I really don’t want to vilify Martin. I think in many ways he is a lost and lonely individual. I have perhaps endless compassion for him. He had a lot of good qualities that gave me reason to fall in love with him. He is in many ways a good-hearted, loving, father, and loyal employee. A giant horse can be beautiful too and safe in some circumstances. But if you’ve been bucked off that horse many times and nursed many wounds from trying time and time again…it really is best to keep yourself at a safe distance. And that’s what I really need to do.
I won’t cut him out completely….I can’t I know this about myself. If he ever asked me for help I would forget all the wrong he has done to me and offer what I could to help him. But I have to maintain safe distance. With Martin, I need to talk through the door. I can’t open it.
Letting go is a process and for some of us longer than others.