Last year, I watched the situation go from bad to worse; I sometimes too hesitantly, sometimes too aggressively voiced my concern, and then painfully retreated when my words fell on deaf ears and my blinded friend continued to be mistreated by a man she thought she loved.
He told her who she was. In one breath, he told her he was the only one who knew her, who appreciated her in all of her beauty and uniqueness; and in the next, he told her the ugly things he knew she was afraid of hearing. He ever so slowly whispered the lies into her ear that would estrange her from the truth and convince her she needed to be who he said so that she wouldn’t be what she feared. She lost touch with reality as it became buried under the weight of his words. And so she forgot who she was.
I didn’t always know; I, too, was fooled for a while, so in a way, I understood. But romance can blind in ways that friendship can’t, and the veil was removed in time for me to see just how far things had gone – too far to go back without consequences.
Consequences there were. Months later, after a nasty breakup, I came home in time to see his words’ ruin while it was still aflame. She cried and cried, tears falling in a little puddle on her bed as she sat and wondered aloud how she let it all happen. She wondered how she had thought that was what she deserved and said she needed to figure out what that meant.
I told her she knew who she was; she had just forgotten for a little while.
I have another friend who likes a boy. He is dating someone else, but chases my friend anyways, and she lets him. She has liked him for too long not to, she says. She puts up some walls and barriers, but at the end of the day they come crashing down when she gives in and lets him catch her.
I told her she deserves better, she just doesn’t know it right now.
I meant what I told both of them. My first friend has been consumed by the truth of her belovedness, her intrinsic worth as a human being made by the Creator and the uniqueness of the role she plays among those she lives alongside. This truth was just overshadowed for a little while.
But my second friend doesn’t know. Deep down, I see it. The messages of worthlessness she receives from him are not the only destructive ones she believes, and so she latches onto what feels like love in the stolen moments he gives to her. She doesn’t yet know how loved and valued she is. But I hope that one day, she will.
Human beings are made to be communal. At our core, we yearn to be known, and to be loved anyways. We desire unity with one another and are well aware that our imperfections disrupt this. So we hide them, and we hide from one another so that our flaws remain undiscovered.
Or when we stumble across that person who knows us and thinks we’re wonderful anyways, we latch onto them. We want to hear it again and again. We want to be wanted, so much that walking away becomes nearly impossible.
I think we do have a responsibility to filter the messages we believe. Choosing to believe that I was intentionally made to be known and loved is one of the hardest things I do, but also the greatest source of life I know.
But I think our vulnerability to the message we receive from other people means we have a responsibility to one another.
There is nothing that spurs me onward like knowing someone believes in me. At the precipice of giving up or giving in, it takes only one set of hands to pull me away from the edge by saying they love me, they know I can do this, they know who I am. It takes one ear to listen to my pain, my shame, my hidden hopes or dreams. And it takes one mouth to tell me the truth when I have forgotten it myself.
So if we’re all parts of one body, maybe we should live our lives looking for the moment our function is needed. Or maybe when Paul wrote that we are all a part of the body of Christ, he didn’t mean that our role is static; maybe some days we pass someone who needs a hand to pull them back home, but other days it’s someone else who needs an ear to open up to or a friend who is looking for a mouth to speak the words they need to hear.
Or maybe, on other days when we’re trying to be a mouth but someone we care about isn’t listening, that’s the day we need to be the heart that holds onto hope or the knees that hit the ground praying or whatever body part is strong enough to keep loving anyways.
I think a lot of the world’s brokenness stems from the fact that we don’t know how to love one another and live communally despite having been made to desire that kind of life. And I don’t know, theologically, at what point grace makes up for this, but I do know that our shortcomings have great impact when directed at other people. We have the ability to take what was supposed to be beautiful – lives lived as a body – and wreck it with our actions or words.
But I do know that at some point, grace steps in. It lends a hand, an ear, a mouth, and a lot of times, grace has a face and is a tangible manifestation of the One who gave us a heart. Grace lets us experience love that looks a lot like a friend in the right place at the right time – or, a friend who put everything aside to go the distance when we are not in the convenient place at the easy time.
It is grace that tells us of the love we deserve because it is grace that makes us deserve love in the first place. And if you know that, it’s worth telling someone whether they believe you or not, because one day – if they break up with their boyfriend or climb to the top of a mountain during sunset or go to some camp to have the best week of their life – they might.