I want to talk about how my faith is evolving. I no longer trust everything just because someone at church said it, which is healthy. But this morning, church offered some good reminders, especially for those of us who have often found ourselves in the “anxious-avoidant trap” attachment system in relationships.
Jesus is not avoidant. He didn’t ignore the hard things going on in our world, because it was just too much for him. He didn’t avoid the big feelings or go numb or stick his head in the sand or check out. He was honest about the pain. He chose to join us in it. From his position of privilege in heaven, he set his sights on US – these totally other-world beings – probably seemingly lazy and disgustingly messed up – and decided to join himself into the full human experience, including the social issues, the oppression, the suffering. So now we have at least one friend who can empathize with us fully. He was willing to be a part of our hard things, even though he didn’t have to.
For us who are believers, this is “the way” we walk through life. This is why we don’t ignore or minimize someone’s experience when they are in crisis or hurting. This is why we don’t say, “It doesn’t affect my life. Why should I care?” This is why white Christians learn about racism. This is why men learn about “me too” and oppression of women and emotional abuse. This is why straight people learn about LGBTQ people’s experience. This is why fourth generation farmers learn about refugees. Not because it has anything to do with them. Because they choose love.
What if no one ever chose to do that for you? To enter your world, right where it hurt the most? I am growing in my desire to understand and care for people who are different than me. But if I’m honest, I have to admit it’s possible this growth would not have happened had I not gone through a couple traumatic experiences of abandonment and betrayal by my trusted community. Because of those experiences, I can relate to some degree with the feeling of being misunderstood and dismissed in my deepest pain and my greatest victories. I was deeply involved in cross-cultural missions everyday for over ten years, and although I saw the need then to respect and care about others who were different than me, my compassion was not as deep or interested or “felt” as it is now that I have had some experiences where I could relate to being avoided and misunderstood.
It has only been because of my privilege that I couldn’t, or chose not to, fully care about others this way.
Can you imagine being a minority and feeling misunderstood and betrayed by your community and neighbors almost all the time? Feeling emotionally safe in very few places? If you can’t, maybe it’s simply because of your comfortable position of privilege. You can easily afford to overlook, check out, and dismiss what’s going on for people living in a different paradigm than you do.
But this is our faith – to jump cultural fences, just like Jesus jumped the biggest one – from heaven to earth. To get uncomfortable. To join into the experience of others. This is what Jesus did, and does. Not because he related to our experience; not because he felt obligated. Because he felt compassion. Because his way of love is totally inconvenient and it has nothing to do with his own life as a king.
And we who have experienced the “anxious-avoidant trap” in relationships (many HSPs) also know this. We know what it feels like to be avoided or dismissed as “too much.” As an HSP, this is one reason my relationship with Jesus is so important to me. He does not dismiss or disregard my big feeling moments. He doesn’t avoid pain; he moves toward the pain. He celebrates my joys and victories. He RUNS to me… breaks down every barrier just to get beside me. Can you even imagine? He does this because he has done the hard relational work of understanding me and has gotten into the nitty-gritty of life with me. It gives me hope that someone of such high privilege would give all of that up, just to be fully-connected with me.