“Never again.” These words have a power, although frail and finite, to protect us from harm. Once we have been hurt, rejected, abused, misused, and disappointed, a helpful “never again” can keep us from further damage. As children we learn to not touch the hot stove, play with sharp objects, and cross the street unattended either from a response to physical pain or from a strong reaction to a firm rebuke from a loving adult. These are helpful “never agains.” They set up hedges of protection, and they teach us in order to preserve us.
However, this ego response, “never again,” can be quite unhelpful at times, as we grow into adolescence and adulthood and those harmful events are, more often than not, relational. Our “never again” slams the door in people’s faces, sets up barricades to keep perpetrators out, and, attempting to ensure security, ends up isolating us and keeping us from the very thing we need and long for. “Never again will I trust people.” “Never again will I let someone do that to me.” “Never again will I let someone get that close to me.” “Never again will I offer my true self in a relationship.” Never. Never. Never.
Unfortunately, these nevers are only a grasping at something unattainable- complete security. Now here’s a never for us- we will never be fully safe this side of heaven. There is a vulnerability that comes with the territory of earthly existence. In an attempt to protect our lives, we thwart and drain them dry of life-giving experience and truth. Yes, a helpful never is beneficial in an abusive relationship (i.e., “I will never be in relationship with my abuser again.”). This is a helpful and healthy boundary that opens the field up wider for life. However, most of our nevers shrink the field of liberty and become a prison.
This Eastertide I have become aware of the resurrection of nevers in my life. To resurrect is to restore to life, specifically, to restore a dead person to life.
To restore- to bring back- to life. What I have shut the door on is open once more. What circumstances or other people have shut the door on is open once more.
Life- flourishing, existing, growing, breathing, creating, multiplying, nourished and nourishing. Death seeks only to rob, kill, and destroy. Life makes things new and full.
In my personal life, I have spoken “never” to the hope of having close friendships after the rending of relationships through disagreement and the sending of dearest friends to far away places. I have spoken “never” to Christian community in any formal sense after one too many hurts. I have spoken “never” to mental, emotional, and spiritual healing, losing hope that I will ever taste freedom and wellness. I have spoken “never” to the potential of using my gifts here in my context- there will “never” be a space for me, no one will ever accept or support me here.
And now in this season, I am bearing witness to resurrection in each of those areas. I have been able to find new ways of being with friends that are far away. Old relationships that I thought might be lost have resurrected like they were never sundered. New friendships are blooming in surprising places. Our family, by the grace of God, found the courage to try church community again, and we are finding life in a space that I’m pretty sure we would not have entered had we not known the loss of past communities. I sat in my therapist’s office this week and actually felt a shift in my mind and body; something changed. Healing is happening. As far as opportunity to share myself- I don’t think that “never” could be held in check. God-light just busts out of us, even in the darkest times. The blog, the women’s groups I am a part of, Building a Bridge-GB, various moments of speaking, sharing, giving- life is erupting from this human. And before all of these public and concrete events, life was erupting from my tears, in the quiet, in the solitude. Life cannot be stopped. In all this flourishing, I can see it now…
My nevers are resurrecting.
I still hold other nevers- the possibility that America can ever heal from the affects of slavery, the probability that all genders will be embraced and encouraged to flourish, the prospect of economic and social equity, and the hope that kindness, generosity, and curiosity could replace cruelty, hoarding, and judgment. These nevers often nearly sink me in defeat.
But I have seen the resurrection of never before. I am seeing it now, right before my eyes. Perhaps God is resurrecting all things to Godself. Maybe what I need now, more than the resurrection of these nevers, is a resurrection of hope, of perseverance and endurance for the long wait, of faith in a God who can and is doing the work of making all things new.
Jesus, the Resurrected One, meet us in our nevers. Come close to our shut doors, closed blinds, and walk through the walls of our barricaded selves, for wherever you are, there is life and resurrection. Things cannot stay dead in the presence of Life. Renew our hope, ignite the flame of faith with us. Illuminate the resurrection that is already in front of us and behind us and all around us. May our life in practice- our speech, our action, our thoughts, our being- refrain from “never” and speak “life” again and always.