Letting the walls down
Two years ago I had a really harsh interaction with a close friend of mine. The situation brought up all kinds of anger, pain and fear in my life. I spent three months dealing with it and didn’t really get anywhere. I knew that I couldn’t heal from it without some help from someone, but honestly, I wasn’t really sure I wanted to deal with it at all. I wanted justice!
I didn't want to deal with my heart or my attitude; I wanted to come up with interesting ways for my friend to pay for what he did. I wanted revenge.
I knew that my closest community were the ones that would back me up and encourage me. What I didn't know was that friends that care for you would actually be the ones to challenge you as well. Good friends ask you the hard questions and tell you what you need to do to own the issue and grow from it.
It was a Saturday afternoon when my wife and I spontaneously stopped by to see our friends, Ben and Sarah, at their home. They were cleaning up their backyard and we helped drag a massive heavy bag full of construction waste to the side of their house. We grabbed some drinks after we were done, pulled chairs onto the grass and sat around a table. We began talking about our lives and I updated them with where I was at in my journey of forgiveness towards my friend. I explained how angry I still felt and the conversation continued for a while. I felt in control and like I was the person who had been wronged.
Suddenly, Sarah looked at me and said, "Jonatas, you have built walls around your heart to protect yourself from getting hurt by people, but these same walls are keeping us from getting to know you. Each time I have an interaction with you I don't know who I'm going to get: the free and open friend or the closed off and protected friend." Now it was taking everything in me not to cry! Sarah continued, "I know this is not the real you and it must be really hard to be someone who you really aren’t. It's keeping you from being free - from being YOU!"
I was starting to cry and was also shaking on the inside. You know you’ve hit something deep when your body starts shaking and your heart beats twice as fast. I couldn’t remember someone speaking with so much honesty to me ever before. The funny thing is, I had never felt so much love from a friend either, even while hearing something so brutally honest. I knew that Sarah and Ben were cheering me on and wanting to see me living the fullness of who I was created to be. The hardness in my heart needed to be broken.
I took those words and reflected on them for almost two months, knowing that it was my time for breakthrough. It was my time to let Jesus in through the walls I had built to protect my heart. It was time to start being real with myself, real with my wife and with my friends.
As I asked God to show me what was going on, he reminded me of something. I was a pastor’s kid growing up. When I was young, our family would spend evenings hanging out together. Suddenly the doorbell would ring (very often, in fact), and each time we would look around and count ourselves to double-check we were all at home. My dad would talk through the intercom while the rest of us would wait to hear from my dad the signal, "Ah OK. Come on in!" At that point, everyone knew what to do. Some of us would hide the dishes, others would take all the blankets to the bedrooms, and my mom would fix the pillows on the sofa and adjust the coffee table. We got really good at this – it was second nature. One minute later we were all sitting properly and smiling in front of whomever had just come in.
And this is exactly what I was still doing when interacting with friends. I only let them see the ‘put together’ version of myself.
As soon as I began letting my guard down, I started to experience my closest friends and family in a more open and vulnerable way – I felt truly loved and accepted for being me. Today I allow people to see the blankets on the floor and the messy dishes and I have never felt so free in my life! Ben and Sarah wanted to see who I actually was and it was because of them that I ended up going through one of the most challenging and rewarding healing seasons in my life. It was the biggest breakthrough that I have ever experienced.
I encourage you to chose the people next to you and allow them to love you through all of the seasons in your life, good and bad. Before Jesus ascended into Heaven he said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Jesus is always with you and there is no fear in His perfect love. He has purposely put people around so that you can truly experience love.
Be who you truly are. Let people in.
My wife Mel Rogato and I are the youth pastors at Catch The Fire Airport, Toronto. May I encourage you to take courage with us and join the conversation. Be real with us. Be real with yourself. You are not alone.