When I was 5 years old my brother and I were stuck inside our home due to a huge rainstorm outside. We decided to play a game where we spun around in circles for 30 seconds and then race each other across the house. We were both really excited by our brilliant new game, so we spun around as fast as we could until the number thirty came out of my mouth. We both stopped and turned towards the opposite side of the house. I was ahead in the race until my dizziness got the best of me and I fell, sprawled out across the floor. I could hear my brother quickly approaching, but because of my awkward sprawl and his own dizziness, he tripped over my foot and landed on my already twisted leg. The pain was fierce. It turned out my leg had a spiral break in it and this was very painful and difficult to detect without an x-ray. I ended up having a cast on my leg for months and couldn’t put any weight on it during this time. After several months I got the cast off, but going so long without use, my leg was weak. I had sharp pains going up my heel and I could barely put any weight on it.
One thing I remember most was the doctor telling me that the part of the bone that broke will become the strongest part of the leg; the area of the bone that had re-bonded was stronger than the bone that was never broken. As a child, I found that fascinating.
As a therapist, I find it to be symbolic. It reminds me of the challenges, fights, and disagreements that we face in relationships and how each time we work to heal the situation, our relationships grow stronger. I think of one of my dearest friendships: we have been friends for over two decades and we have had some intense, painful, deeply wounding fights. Sometimes I thought our friendship would end, but through time, communication, forgiveness, and understanding we are still very close friends. In fact, I think of her more as a sister than a friend.
This is not to say that people should purposefully start fights or create discord in a relationship in order to strengthen the bond, rather it is to show that healing and repair are possible even in the most difficult situations. As humans we tend to push away from a relationship when we have been hurt. While this is natural and understandable, it does not heal or strengthen the relationship. It creates separation and distance. As humans we will mess-up and hurt each other, this is a guarantee, but what we choose to do with that hurt is what helps determine the outcome of the relationship.
This reminds me of a quote from C. S. Lewis “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
The word “impenetrable” has always resonated to me. We can become so guarded that our hearts become hardened; this means that pain cannot exist within our hearts, but neither can love, joy or pleasure. Vulnerability takes courage. It is not without risk, but the benefits are immeasurable.
Choose vulnerability. Choose love. Choose to heal brokenness and create an even stronger bond.