In my thirties — a stage of life where I have never before had less time and more people depending on me — I have seen Him put shape to what friendship is meant to be. Iron sharpens iron, one life brushing up against another and causing a beautiful friction that transforms all that’s dull.
Today I get to share with you one of my dearest.
Kelly sharpens me. By her life against mine, I have known new sides of Him. As you’ll see from her writing this sweet friend o’mine is in hot pursuit of a life surrendered and the God-Man behind that surrender. I just love her!
(For the month of May and a week into June, I will be pressing pause on my online writing and this space will become a series of testimonies of what He births in the midst of delay, perplexity and pain. Author friends from around the world, who love words on a page and Him even more, will share, here, how they have seen Him make the bitter, sweet.)
Life is wrought with pain. Each of us encounters it in different seasons and in different ways. But, we all have the same choice to make. Will we go the way of our feelings and what comes naturally, or will we choose the way of pursuing Jesus, which is often unnatural and hard due to our flesh, and absolutely impossible without Him empowering us?
In a dialog that has continued over the last few weeks, I’ve been sharing with a good friend the question on my heart lately, “What kind of woman will I be when I’m 60?” What kind of woman will I be if the things I want to see most changed in my husband never change? What kind of woman will I be if any of my children die? What kind of woman will I be if I miscarry again? What kind of woman will I be if another friend betrays me? What kind of woman will I be if I face the ultimate betrayal in life—adultery?
I have watched a lot of hurt surface among believers lately and I’ve taken it to heart in evaluating how I carry my heart in a relationship in which I’ve been hurt. I see several factors that go into helping me carry my heart well, including having an eternal perspective, a vision for who the Lord wants me to be, and clear understanding of how He desires for me to love the other person.
One of the most important aspects that I am coming to understand as I grow in the Lord is His desire for me to participate in bringing life to the soul of the one who has offended me. Hence the question, “What kind of woman will I be?”
My husband and I tend to be future-oriented in our thinking and planning. Both of us seem to be wired that way, and it was evident from an early age in both of our lives. While, at times, being future-oriented can introduce its own issues, I’m learning that it’s most often advantageous, because the Lord encourages us to be this way (while also calling us to remember the past and what He has done already). The decisions we make now will affect us later in this life on earth and when we are with Him for eternity. It is especially true in how we choose to carry our heart in relationships — are we now-oriented, or future-oriented?
While I’m still relatively young, I have experienced much relational hurt and pain.
The people whom the Lord intended to be the most trustworthy and most like Him in this lifetime have been the ones to inflict it throughout my life. Through my college years, I had big choices to make regarding the path I would take. Would I choose healing or the destruction of my soul through anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness? I had suffered emotionally for years at the hands of people who did not battle against the roots of anger and bitterness in its early stages, and their bitter, angry cups overflowed. I felt the pain. I knew the hurt.
And, I knew that I did not want to be like that or to see such fruit come from me.
In His great mercy, the Lord moved in my heart and mind in such a way that emotional healing became a focus for me. I had to be free of the anger and bitterness that was threatening to take root in my own heart. The pain was cultivating it, but I did not want it to grow. I saw that my heart was not free to soar in the Lord.
So, I decided to do whatever it took to pursue freedom. After countless hours of tears, sharing raw and sometimes ugly places in my heart with older women, and receiving counsel from them to do the hard things required of me, the Lord granted breakthrough.
Looking back, the path didn’t seem easy and it took time. But, the experience of breaking from oppression and pain into freedom was, and still is, an Ebenezer marking passage into deeper intimacy with Jesus.
A result of the new-found freedom was a heart that was grew leaps and bounds in the Lord, a heart free from anger and bitterness, and new knowledge. I learned conflict resolution, how to establish boundaries, and what healthy relationships should look like.
I also learned how to cry and how to express emotion. It had been bottled up for years, squelched. I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. The pain was too great, not only from what I’d experienced, but from what was threatening the life of my soul. When I talked with those who walked me into healing, I learned not to be ashamed or fearful of expressing emotion. This was a whole new area of freedom!
I’ve been learning that it is in meekness, a gentle and quiet spirit, and intercession, that people are brought to repentance. Not public slandering, badgering the person, or the silent treatment. This requires great long-suffering on my part and it’s not easy!
The people who hurt me still to this day have not changed. They have never apologized or asked for my forgiveness and the circumstances are still very sad to me. But, unlike the early days of my marriage when I would cry and cry and my husband would seek to help walk me through the pain and into further freedom, I am also free of the emotional wreckage it caused.
This is the way of joy, doing the hard work in my own heart and surrendering to the Lord what I desire to see in the other person, no matter how wrong they are. I’ve been learning (and don’t believe I’ll be done in this lifetime) what it looks like to walk as an unoffended woman, and what it looks like to walk in freedom.
It doesn’t mean that I stop being offended only when the person realizes what they’ve done and apologizes to me. It means I cry out to the Lord to soften my heart, to receive the offense, and to walk in a way that pleases my Lord now, whether the person ever comes to me or not. It means doing the hard work of fighting against my natural inclination to hate, be angry and bitter, and possibly even to defend myself or clear misunderstanding, depending on the circumstance.
I could not do this myself. It is impossible. The Lord’s ways, upside-down as they are to the worldly mind, are so very contrary to the natural tendencies of my sinful heart. There was surrender involved, which in itself was painful. To say, “soften MY heart,” is so much harder than “soften their heart.”
I have been faithless, adulterous, unkind, etc. toward the Lord many times throughout my journey with Him. Yet, never once has He turned His back on me or been so angry that He can’t welcome me into His presence. No, instead, He’s disciplined me tenderly when I’ve stepped outside of his safety and protection of blessing (boundaries), and it’s led me to repentance (and restored relationship with Him). This tender way of relating to me is what has opened the door for healing, reconciliation, repentance and deep intimacy with Him. Is this not such a tender example for how to relate to others on the earth?
I’m convinced that had these painful relationships not been in my life, I would not be who I am today. Oh, there are things I still wish didn’t have to be there for me to work through, but because of the path I’ve been on, I’ve had the privilege of knowing different aspects of the Lord’s heart that I don’t believe I would have experienced…or at least not by this stage of life.
The kind of woman that I want to be is the one who is rare. A jewel. One who overcomes sin and who walks in the strength of the Lord, believing every single Word that comes from His lips, for myself and others. One who has learned to love like Jesus does. It is painful and costly, but always unto life.
Kelly Tarr and her husband Blane have recently ventured into living the country life in East Tennessee while wrangling their two little ones and preparing for another one on the way.