As I sat with my morning coffee, I pondered all that my heart was holding after a conversation with my friend the night before. I knew it was time to speak more, to risk, to ask for more. I sent a text asking if she had time for coffee…over the phone…an unfortunate reality of physical distance that makes popping over for a face to face conversation difficult. Yet this morning, the emotional distance my heart was feeling was so much heavier.

I have thought much about the messiness and pain of relationships over the past year. As a deeply feeling, highly sensitive introvert, I am most “myself” when I am in intimate, close relationship with a few people. I don’t do surface well. And as I’ve come to embrace the goodness in my introverted self, I’ve also had to come face to face with the contempt I’ve held for what I’m reacting to. I’ve had to learn to let go of my judgment for interactions with others that are not deep, to risk not separating relationships into good or bad, real or fake, important or not.

The truth is, when I am most myself, I am glorious and I am vulnerable. Standing there in that space, glorious and vulnerable, feels like standing in the middle of a battlefield with a huge target painted on my body. My attempts to protect myself by categorizing relationships as good or bad is simply that, an attempt; a flawed from the beginning grasping for connection and significance.

One of my favorite movies of all time is The Princess Bride. In it, the Princess Buttercup (what a name!) says to the Man in Black (who she does not realize yet is her long lost love, Westley): “You mock my pain.” To which he replies, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” I think there is Truth, capital T truth in that statement. Life is pain. And so all of my attempts to manage and protect myself from that pain keep me from True Life. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) When I read the accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry, it is all too clear that he knows that Truth well: life, full life, is painful. And he is not afraid to name it, to call it what it is, and still remind us that it is the fullness of what he is offering.

So this morning my friend and I lived fully. It was messy and painful. And it was beautiful and healing. After I hung up the phone I looked down where I was sitting, and saw the aftermath of our conversation.

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And I took a picture because I wanted to remember. I know I will need the reminder when I am tempted to believe that pain is avoidable and unnecessary. That’s what evil is trying to sell, and we don’t have to buy it.


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Janet Stark is a woman learning to embrace her depth and sensitivity.  Inspired by Mary pondering things in her heart, Janet writes about her experiences here. She is grateful for the deep love she shares with her husband of 25 years, as well as her 4 children and 2 grandchildren. She is a life-long lover of words and looks forward to reading and sharing at Red Tent Living.

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