I’m toying with this thought, a euphemistic play on words, if you will, that’s slowly changing the way I relate to the world.
The terms “slowly” and “euphemistic” underscore just how much I’m dreading this process – I’d rather be done already, and use profanity instead of cutesy alliteration to describe the beleaguered process.
But the older I get, the more I’m faced with demons of my past, the roots of my existence, and realize that despite what happens to me, I alone can dictate my attitude.
And it’s better to be hurt than hostile.
This doesn’t come easy for me. I’m a fan of the whole “eye for an eye” bit, and having those who wrong me turn the other cheek so it’s easier for me to strike them.
Vengeance come easier than vulnerability, but what I’ve come to realize is that the protections I put in place to prevent harm end up causing more of it – not just to those around me, but myself. And, in the end, becoming hostile is more hurtful than any alternative.
In my relationships – my marriage, my friendships, my daily encounters – it’s easier to grow thicker skin and create separation than it is to stay exposed.
This played out recently in real time when I suffered a large scratch down my right arm after brushing my roughed up left hand across it to stave off a shiver. Callouses grow thick on barbell gripping hands, and the same is true for hearts that brush against a broken world.
In my relationships – my marriage, my friendships, my daily encounters – it’s easier to grow thicker skin and create separation than it is to stay exposed. And while I’d like to think that I’ll be more successful as an indomitable force, it’s the meek who will inherit the earth, the merciful who are shown mercy, the peacemakers who are called sons of God. (Matthew 5:3-10)
There’s clearly a side more sustaining of joy.
The most difficult part of this process is the instantaneous decision making involved. When we’re exposed, left bare to the brunt of the brokenness around us, nature dictates that callouses form. We can’t leave this to chance.
It’s amazing what a little body armor can do. This may sound contradictory – I’m here promoting the idea of vulnerability to a calloused nature – but the difference is that a callous changes the condition of the body, where as armor protects that condition.
“Put on the full armor of God,” Paul says to the Ephesians, “so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” While my struggles seem to be with those who wrong me, it’s not against flesh and blood I’m fighting – I’m up against spiritual warfare in my marriage, friendships and daily encounters. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
In the training room, this protection looks like weightlifting gloves that insulate and protect, and it’s because of that protection we can lift more and longer. In our daily life, this armor is the belt of truth at our waist, the breastplate of righteousness, steel-toed shoes of readiness from the gospel of piece, the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation.
There’s few places as dangerous as the battlefield. You’re more likely to be hurt running into the battlefield than holed up behind a calloused wall. For all the protection a callous seems to boast, it offers little reprieve from flaming arrows.
While it’s more painful in the moment, running back onto the battlefield – our marriage, our friendships, our daily encounters – is how we live out our calling. And I, for one, don’t want to retreat any longer.