I moved to Bombay (Mumbai) in 2013. On the last Sunday I spent in Delhi before moving we sang a song which remains close to my heart – “Whom Shall I Fear” by Chris Tomlin. The words that struck by me were this -
“I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side”
So as I left my closest friends whom I held near my heart as family, with fear I moved to the big bad city of Bombay.
When I moved to Bombay - I was scared. My decision to move was rejected by my parents, so, raw with hurt, I arrived in Bombay to a new community. When I moved to a new city, I came with my own baggage and hurt. I came ready to reject, just how I had been rejected. It was the response I knew best.
I was used to people accepting my rejection and moving on - without me. But what I was not ready for and what was going to refine my thinking and life - was people confronting me for rejecting them.
Two women in the new city, on different occasions, sat me down, with tears in their eyes, and told me how I had hurt them. I, who was used to playing the the victim, began to see how I had become the perpetrator of offences.
In any other situation, I would have cowered in disgrace and shame, and run away, and avoided the people who confronted me. But here is what shocked me more than their ability to confront my behaviour - their ability to forgive me.
I struggle to forgive people. One because I don’t have the courage to admit to them that they hurt me and two because I silently hope that they’ll read my mind and apologize for exactly how they hurt me. So when someone forgives me for hurting them, it blows my mind - because the experience of being forgiven by those whom I have hurt, teaches me to forgive those who’ve hurt me.
It’s not as easy as saying a prayer and being done with it. Real forgiveness, real repentance, and a real community - is messy.
Real forgiveness in a community means being honest when you’ve been hurt, and being ready to admit the painful truth that you have also hurt someone. In my case, it meant seeing how much I had been hurting the women who had been trying to love me.
But, you know what - they didn’t give up. They took breaks from pursuing me but they never stopped pursuing a relationship with me. It hasn’t been easy for them, because it meant a lot of tears, and it meant them choosing not to hold the hurt I had caused them against me. Who does that?
In today’s day and age, being a strong and free woman is lauded while being vulnerable is seen as a character flaw. But, I have seen more strength in women who have chosen to be vulnerable by opening up their lives, instead of hiding their struggles in an attempt to appear strong.
The truth is this. I was afraid of being hurt that I ended up hurting people to protect myself. I was and still am afraid of being perceived as weak and so I end up doing things that may make me seem strong - like bullying someone else; but that is actually a sign of weakness.
Being vulnerable to one another is what build real community. But the fear of being exposed for what we are - can stop us.
Fear is a silly thing when you think about it. It cloaks itself by deceiving us into believing that fear is only of tangible objects - ghosts, lizards and the dark. But true fear - fear that can control a person’s soul - has to do with the intangible - where no one can see what we’re really afraid of.
Fear teaches us to be afraid, keep a watch out, protect yourself, and most importantly - fear teaches us not to trust anyone - it teaches us to treat people as enemies.
These two women chose to be vulnerable to me - by being honest with me when I had hurt them, but also by being willing to choose to overlook that hurt and pursue a relationship with me. To me it meant putting aside my fears, and instead of viewing others as a threat - viewing them as part of the angel army that God is the commander in chief of.
I have a good relationship with them now. But, more than my relationship with them, they helped me move to a deeper and more real understanding of forgiveness. I understand God’s forgiveness today because these two women were willing to forgive me for hurting them.
I understand fear and how the fear of being hurt can often lead me to hurt others. This is where I need to believe what Chris Tomlin sang more than what I perceive - that I have nothing to fear - that I am shielded by a God who was willing to let His son pass through the most vulnerable situation on the cross.
Whatever hurt I have experienced diminishes when I view it in light of how much hurt I have caused God and the people around me.
In 2005 Steve Jobs gave the commencement address at Stanford where he shares 3 stories from his life. The first stories he shares is about connecting the dots. He said something about this story which I wanted to share -
“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
I can’t look forward and connect the dots, but looking back, I can see how the women God placed around me taught me to face my fears and loved me without any fear.
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