I think I’ve become a relationship agoraphobic, afraid to venture beyond the threshold of my life. I’m Miss Havisham of Great Expectations fame, letting one (or many) jiltings securely lock me inside the safe walls of my home, hoarding my heart to myself. Sometimes it takes a friend and a conversation to pull me from hiding.
Today that happened. We talked. She shared something so deep, so painful, so aching that I felt a holy presence engulfing us as she poured herself. Something rose up within me—a Jesus empathy for her, her story, her lot. Tears came to both of us. A hug, too. And a fervent, aching prayer for Jesus to intersect her current struggle. I left our time feeling awe, yet my heart heavied.
One reason why France bricked my heart is this terrible-awful-sweet gift God’s given me called Empathy. Empathy helps me enter into the pain of another, slip on its shoes, and walk around in it. Problem is, the shoes glue themselves to me and I can’t take them off without ripping the flesh from my feet. Empathy is my DNA, so much a part of me I can’t extricate it. I wore my friend’s grief all evening. It stays.
While in France I also realized I couldn’t be the person who knew everything. It was just too hard for me to know what all the church leaders knew, to see the people who inflicted injury on others and not let it affect me.
My empathy also breeds a huge animosity toward those that hurt others. Although I know it’s not good to live my life in fairyland, never wiser to the workings of people and their problems, it’s also not good for me to be privy to down and dirty details. I’m weak that way.
My husband? He can carry. He can love people knowing all the stuff. He can move on, seldom immobilized. This used to bother me, but now it endears me to him. His logic marries my empathy and makes a great marriage. Sometimes he needs me to remind him about empathy. Sometimes I need him to remind me of logic and persevering nonetheless.
My fallback is to hide my heart, to retreat from the pain. Which is why I wrote my upcoming book, The Wall Around Your Heart. I can tend toward retreating like Miss Havisham, but God has shown me so much joy by letting Him tear down the wall, brick by brick.
What about you? What makes you retreat from others? Are you high or low on the empathy scale?