Letting In Instead of Letting Go

Bringing dinner to a friend taught me that my heart had changed

I had an experience this week that is not unusual for most people, but it is unusual for me.

It started with a Facebook post:

Husband ended up in the ER tonight. Prayers for him please! He ended up with the respiratory type flu which has now affected his kidney function…then to make matters worse on him, he’s very worried about exposure to [our kids]. Prayers for rest, and healing.

In the comments, she mentioned that one of the kids was staying with a different parent to keep them healthy, and that left her with just the toddler.

I’ve had those nights at the emergency room, and they are no fun.

Taking my own advice, I reached out to her:

For most people, an offer to help with dinner is normal. Standard, “good person” stuff. I just never wanted to. My heart simply wasn’t in it.

Resentment and a giving heart do not go hand-in-hand.

One piece of standard advice from mental health professionals to those on the road to recovery is to start giving. They encourage us to reach out to our community and just get “engaged,” start volunteering or start finding little ways to contribute to our circle of friends. They assure us that giving is an essential piece on the road to remission and that giving even when we don’t feel like it helps us get better.

In the past, I’ve felt like I should offer meal train assistance or contribute to the GoFundMe of a recently-widowed co-worker (in my husband’s industry, we usually get two or three of these requests in a given year). It always felt like a sense of obligation, and I rarely jumped on the giving train. I felt like a traitor to the cause and as though I had a Grinch-y heart.

Sometime in the past year, my heart changed.

Sure, I’ve had a few moments when I’ve been glad I volunteered, but I’ve also felt resentful of the imposition on my time. Resentment and a giving heart do not go hand-in-hand.

This time was different. This time, I saw a friend in need and wanted to help. Sometime in the past year, my heart changed.

I’m a bit in awe of this change because I had genuinely come to accept that I was just not “that” person. I believed that I somehow needed to admit that the part of me that wanted to give in these more tangible ways didn’t operate the way it did for others.

It’s a significant enough change that it was worth addressing with my therapist.

Coping skills and life skills are not the same thing.

“What do you think led to this change?” Mike asked. “I don’t know,” I responded. “I think I’m learning to let go…no wait; I’m not letting go. I’m letting in.” “Go with that,” he said, “give me more on ‘letting in.’”

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot of coping skills. What I know now is that coping skills and life skills are not the same thing. One of the most significant life skills I’ve needed to learn is how to establish real friendships. It’s been a slow road for me because it requires trust and vulnerability: it means letting in experiences I’ve pushed away for many years.

Allowing people in means allowing love in. It means allowing support in. It means allowing myself not to be alone. It means letting grace and trust and compassion in. For someone who has lived through a lot of trauma and pain, this is a tall order.

I’ve learned that allowing others to provide these to me allows me to give them to myself.

Having received, I now have a desire to give. It’s not an obligation; it’s a pleasure.

It’s unlocking an area of my heart that’s long been closed off. Like a dusty room, I’ve had to clear the dust off, air out the room, and clean the windows to let all the sunlight in. It’s been a lot of work, and I’m finding that this place is more beautiful than I imagined.

Like any freshly cleaned room, I find myself drawn to this one. I like spending time in this part of my heart. Having received, I now have a desire to give. It’s not an obligation; it’s a pleasure.

As I walked back to my car after dropping off the food, my steps felt light. It was a moment of joy for me. I delighted in the act of giving, as God intended for us.

In receiving, I learned to give. And now my focus is shifting from letting go to letting in. How big can my heart get? Only God knows, and now I’m excited to discover it for myself.

Lord, many of us have learned to wall up our hearts, to hide from trust and love to prevent pain. I ask that, where they exist, you step in and offer your love. Help us let in love, compassion, and grace, that our hearts may be healed and we may be a better reflection of the love you offer the world. Amen.

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