Friendships. Vulnerability in Relationships. “Braveheart” by Sharon Hersh (May 2008)

Susan's Thursday Note Newsletter May 15, 2008
Friendships (Vulnerability in Relationships)
Braveheart: Unlocking the Courage to Love with Abandon by Sharon Hersch
References to Telling Secrets by Frederick Buechner and Reaching Out by Henry Nouwen

Good morning!  No moonlight, but I can see the sky changing – only a matter of minutes until “Aurora” comes.  Did you know “Aurora” means dawn in Latin?   This e-mail is going to be long.  I highly suggest you take the time to read it when you have five minutes.  I think you’ll be glad I didn’t take out anything.  It’s hard to know what to take out & I have just reread it & don’t know what to cut!

I was given a book last month that I finally had a chance to read this week called Brave Hearts: Unlocking the Courage to Love with Abandon by Sharon Hersch.  This book is written for women, but I try to put into this note what all of you can think about this week, for I believe we all desire intimacy with our children, friends, family.  I highly recommend it to all women and to mothers or fathers of girls, for then you will be able to parent your daughters with a new look at their desire for relationships, for intimacy with friends, and be given advice on how to handle their hurts when, even as tiny little girls, their hearts break even on the playground.  Advice on keeping their hearts “brave” and vulnerable – so they do not learn to close themselves off from being their true selves, even at a young age, with the fear of not being understood or hurt.  Here are her words.  Hard for me to know what to add to this note without making it too long!

…a broken family, cruel words on the playground, dateless Friday nights in high school, an unfaithful mate, a gossiping friend, a runaway daughter, busyness of daily life, the sameness of relationships – all conspire to convince us that our longings must be watered down or forgotten…but then something tugs at our hearts…a movie, a book, a friend, a scripture, a child, a song…and reminds us that deep within us is a desire for fulfilling relationships so intense that even the daily or disappointing realities of life cannot extinguish it…it’s hard to admit how much we long for.  It sounds…too much.  We can become strangers to our own hearts by not disclosing to anyone (even admitting to ourselves) the full intensity of our desires.

1 Corinthians 14:1 “Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it – because it does.” This book is for all women who have asked questions like: Is what I’m doing important?  Why am I here?  Who was I meant to be?  Am I doing enough?  What makes life worth living?
* What do you ache for, dream about, take risks for, pray to God about?
* What dreams did you or do you have for your life?
* Make a list of all the things you thought would make you happy, but failed to satisfy.  Are you still stuck in the “I’ll be happy when…” syndrome?
* When you survey the state of your relationships today, what category best describes you?
resigned restless hopeful committed
* What kinds of things does your longing for relationship compel you to want/do?
* What makes your heart sing?
* Up to this point, how have you characterized your desire for relationships?
desperate pitiful embarrassing holy sacred emotional unimportant primary burdensome unique Christlike wonderful shameful exhilarating

God in heaven holds each person by a string.  When we fail, we cut the string.  Then God ties it up again, making a knot and thereby bringing us a little closer to him.  Again and again our failures cut the string, and with each additional knot God keeps drawing us closer and closer.  (lesson overheard to young children).  2 Corinthians 12:10.  “Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size – abuse, accidents, oppositions, bad breaks.  I just let Christ take over.  And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

Affairs of the Heart:..the holy longing for meaningful relationships is written into our hearts by our Creator.  It whispers to us, nudges us toward relationships, and reminds us of the joy found when we are truly engaged in relationship.  But when our innate longings are ignored, discounted, disappointed, misunderstood, or disregarded, our hearts often search for some satisfaction through unhealthy means.  Rather than consciously pursuing righteous relationships and a meaningful life of love, we allow poor substitutes to capture our hearts…usually subtle, gradual…the list is endless…  An affair of the heart is any relationship, behavior, or experiences that supplants healthy relationships (over-commitments (staying “busy), overeating, alcohol or drugs, obsession with looks/appearance, sinful relationship, shopping, perfectionism, envy, addiction…)…the woman who soothes her longings by running herself ragged is a lot like the woman who satisfied with promiscuous relationships.  Although the external realities may look different, the internal state of the heart is the same – captured and carried away by a “relationship” that robs the hert of the energy necessary to live a life of extravagant love and passionate purpose…  You cannot rid yourself of the longing for connection, but you can choose to take your longing to God or to turn away from him.  Turning toward him means confessing you are holding onto a destructive behavior and asking for the strength to relax your grip.

How can you know if you’re involved in an affair of the heart?  Destructive relationships are marked by four distinctives: they are habitual, compulsive, secretive and isolating…all four elements erode a woman’s capacity to love and be loved in soul-enriching ways…it is possible to be broken and whole at the same time; to rest in deep faith even in the midst of life’s storms; to live with fervent hope when apathy or even despair seems more reasonable; and to love radically, thereby redeeming relationships in extravagant ways.  (I Corinthians 13:3,13 “So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love…We have three things to do…: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.  And the best of the three is love.”

Knowing yourself:  Henry Nouwen states in his book Reaching Out
What if the events of our history are molding us as a sculptor molds his clay, and if it is only in a careful obedience to these molding hands that we can discover our real vocation and become mature people?  What if all the unexpected interruptions are in fact invitations to give up old-fashioned and out-moded styles of living and are opening up new unexplored areas of experience?  And finally: What if our history does not prove to be a blind impersonal sequence of events over which we have no control, but rather reveals to us a guiding hand pointing to a personal encounter in which all our hopes and aspirations will reach their fulfillment?  Then our life would indeed be different, because then fate becomes opportunity, wounds a warning, and paralysis and invitation to search for deeper sources of vitality.

Forgiveness: …researchers discovered one commonality among those who were able to let go of the past and become involved in relationships again.  They noted, without exception, that the resentment had disappeared only when individuals recognized that they themselves had been forgiven for some offense.  Only in receiving forgiveness could they begin to consider forgiving others.  (A Reflection on Guilt by Dominic Maruca, “The memory of things past is indeed a worm that does not die.  Whether it continues to grow by gnawing away at our hearts or is metamorphosed into a brightly colored winged creature depends…on whether we can find a forgiveness we cannot bestow on ourselves.”

Keeping relationships that are important to us: What keeps us from retreating from these relationships in hurt and disappointment and instead allows us to enter into extravagant love?  We must be relentless in looking for the strengths, gifts, and abilities of the people God has placed in our lives.  No one knows those close to you as you do…no one can love them more fiercely.

Antithesis of choices that entangle us in destructive relationships & habits:  discipline, surrender, transparency, connection.  We must participate in our own rescue.  Prepare, practice, and participate daily.

* Discipline: create your own sacred space in which to practice your disciplines, privacy, nourishing your spiritual life.
* Listen – remembering your past, looking for God in your present, dreaming about your future.
* Examining yourself, confessing, meditating.
* Praying (Romans 8:26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along.  If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter.  He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.  He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.  That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.)
* Worship.  Worship is to actively recognize God as worthy.  Worship fills our hearts and minds with wonder of God.  How can we get a glimpse of God and remain passive?  Worship is encountering One who is beyond words, One who for that moment surrounds and fills our every longing and empty place.  As we respond, he enters in and meets us. 
* Surrender.  Freeing truth that God is God and she is not…surrender to a loving, wise, and trustworthy heavenly Father…hoping, waiting, praying, trying, succeeding, failing, hurting, and enjoying has taught her that the most intimate relationship is available with God as she surrenders to him. 

Importance of honesty about self with either self or a closer friend.   In Telling Secrets by Frederick Buechner he writes on the importance of a vulnerable connection:
It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are – even if we tell it only to ourselves – because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing.  It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier that way to see where we have been in our lives an where we are going.  It also makes it easier for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own, and exchanges like that have a lot to do with what being a family is all about.  Finally, I suspect that it is by entering that deep place inside us where our secrets are kept that we come perhaps closer than we do anywhere else to the One who, whether we realize it or not, is of all our secrets the most telling and the most precious we have to tell.

Friendships of the soul through common experiences & pain.   Magus de Unamuno says in Tragic Sense of Life: Great love is born of sorrow.  It is then that we know one another and feel one another an feel with one another in common anguish, and so thus we pity one another and love one another.  For to love is to pity; and if bodies are united by pleasure, souls are united by pain.  To love with the spirit is to pity, and who pities most loves most.” I love that!   Those that will be my most intimate friends – the friends that are intertwined with my soul – those are the friends that also have shared some of the same pains!

2 Samuel 22:20   He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.   One of my favorite verses.   I don’t know how to consolidate this note, for I believe that those of you that I know and have met will appreciate thinking through off of this.   Fall to your knees.  Our intimacy that we were created to have – that is where we have our needs met.   Looking to the hills & on our knees.   Make the most of your day.   Make yourself proud.     Susan

Latin for this week: 
Amoris vulnis idem sanat qui facit – Wounds of love are cured by love itself.
Alter ego – "Another I" (Zeno). Soul mate, close friend.

Works Cited:
Buechner, Frederick.  Telling Secrets.  New York.  Harper Collins.  1992.
Hersch, Sharon. Brave Hearts: Unlocking the Courage to Love With Abandon. Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press. 2000.
Nouwen, Henry.  Reaching Out.  New York.  Image (Doubleday).  1986.