“Sometimes people leave you.” The lyrics playing from my car speakers sink in my heart as I turn the corner and head home.
Today was not what I expected.
I live in a rather small community called Escondido. We’re a suburb of the big city of San Diego, but the surrounding communities are small and somewhat intimate. I’ve lived here most of my life. There is one big church and lots of small ones. It’s normal to see my old Sunday school teacher at Trader Joe’s or a high school classmate in line at In-N-Out. It isn’t all that uncommon to see my cousin at school pick up either. But there are certain people I never see . . . like my childhood friend who broke off our friendship years ago and lives just a few minutes down the road. Except I did today. I was caught off guard. I smiled and greeted her with kindness. I walked away and glanced over my shoulder to see her with her teenage daughters. Then, I got in my car with my kids and drove away.
I play the song again. That line snags my heart, “…Sometimes people leave you…” Our friendship ended nearly 20 years ago, but the slightest ache still exists inside of me.
The truth is, I feel embarrassed about admitting it. I should feel better by now. I shouldn’t care so much. But, I do. I loved deeply and I lost deeply. I spent years trying to figure out why, how, or what I could have done differently. I lost sleep. I lost weight. I lost a part of myself that I never imagined would return. The hardest part was the feeling of being misunderstood. I hated that I couldn’t defend myself against accusations. It hurt that assumptions were made that I couldn’t clear up. I had so many silent arguments in my mind that ended in tears or fits of anger.
Being misunderstood is so painful.
I pull into the garage and park, and the kids bolt out leaving a trail of trash behind them. It hits me how I’ve grown a whole new life without her. I’m not who I was before. I feel something. But this ache isn’t from being misunderstood any longer. This ache is gratitude.
Of course, I wish I could have become who I am without the pain. I wish I could have magically become secure without my soul being smashed. But, in the strangest way possible, I am thankful for who I have become through the loss of this relationship. It took decades to heal. And though that feels embarrassing, I can look back with compassion and recognize that healing takes time. When deep wounds gush, God goes extra slow. It took time to let go of not just a relationship, but my reputation. When she left me, I was left with a lot of personal rubble to clean up.
My natural tendency is to cling to my reputation. I put it in a glass jar. I protect it at all costs. I want to manage how people perceive me. But when my friendship shattered, my ability to protect my reputation also shattered. I couldn’t convince anyone that I was right and she was wrong. I couldn’t defend myself. I had to let go. Even though it was incredibly hard, surrendering my reputation was a huge part of my healing journey.
I had to give others the right to be wrong about me. I had to let go of the need to be seen as fully good in everyone’s eyes. I released my reputation. I placed myself in the judgment seat.
What was my defense?
I am a child of God. Period. Though judgments were cast in my direction, it turned out that this seat was not a seat of execution, but a throne of grace. This is where God found me. This is where I found Him. This is where slow healing started.
In the crevice wound where uncontrollable accusations hurled towards me and my pain was pierced again and again, yes, this was the place where God’s love poured in.
The song I’ve been listening to ends with the line, “You are not alone. Believe me. No one is alone.” And, I smile. I smile to myself the way I smiled at the woman who was once my best friend. I am not alone. I never was. In fact, I am whole. I don’t need her or anyone else to fully understand me. I am a child of God. The same God who took a beating and spilled blood because friends betrayed Him and His community misunderstood Him.
I came into His wounds and I was healed.