As a new year starts, it brings a fresh opportunity to evaluate so many aspects of our lives. We start with hope of leaving behind that which holds us back – unhealthy eating, judgmental thinking, entrenched opinions, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and perhaps the one most difficult to recognize, and deal with, toxic relationships.
As people who walk so closely with Yeshua, and work to do so on a daily basis, my go-to is to forgive, seek peace, be open and accepting, put my needs last. For me, as I’ve shared before, these traits even were part of my wiring before I found Yeshua as a result of my childhood where being a parent pleaser and peacemaker were tools of survival. So it has been a lifelong journey to seek discernment as to when these seemingly good traits, and they are in most cases I would hope, are not part of a healthy choice.
I have shared with you the toxic relationship between my mother and my aunt which prevented communication between our family and my father’s side of the family. Some years ago when I reached out to this aunt, who is now no longer with us, the beginning of a new chapter in this story began. It had days of sadness as I learned of grandparents and other relatives I never knew. Most recently it has days of miracles as my cousin overcomes her recent life threatening health challenges. We are reminded through Scripture of the many times our fathers before us didn’t see the relational healings, as it can take generations for such situations to resolve, and they do so imperfectly. It is up to each of us, in our lifetimes, to make the choice whether to continue to spiral toward the dark, or to the light, to cleanse or continue toxicity, to love or to hate.
I am not an advocate of divorce, or at least my fairy tale ending desires as well as my Jewish Orthodox ancestral position on this topic would have taught me to never end a marriage. And yet, after 28 years, it took me being out of that relationship for me to recognize its toxicity. My seeing the glass half full, or even overflowing, and putting myself last were not the best perspectives in that particular case. The spiritual release of my spirit was palpable the day he left our home.
Similarly, I had a friendship for a number of years with a person whom I could feel literally drained my energy. Whenever we would be together, I was there for her emotionally so deeply in her struggles that I would become absolutely exhausted. There was no bilateral nature, but rather, I was there for her. Again, seems pretty obvious to others that this is not healthy, yet when you’re in it, when you care for the other person, you only want to help.
For me, this year, I’m ready to work on this. There is so much I want to do in these years that remain to bring light to the world. Toxic relationships can only hinder that goal, potentially drain that passion. I will work to live by the words of the serenity prayer, to not waste energy on that which cannot be changed. I will pray for discernment to know when it’s time to give up and not keep trying to be loved. To continue to love and forgive, but with proper boundaries and realistic expectations of lack of reciprocity.
As these thoughts entered my jog this morning, I passed a place I’ve seen so many times. Months ago someone had thrown a sneaker over a telephone wire so the shoe was unreachable. It’s been there dangling somehow clearly visible as a shoe, until today. As I jogged under the wire what I saw looked almost like a hornet’s nest. Yet as a I got closer I could see it was a frozen mass of dirty snowy sludge, the shoe no longer visible. Instead it had been surrounded by layers of frozen muck.
That shoe was intended to run, to carry its owner through life’s adventures. It lost its purpose, was literally thrust off course, battered, immobilized, cast aside, as we can be by others. Just as the unrecognizable shoe smothered in mud, frozen, we can lose our vitality, our light in Him, become unrecognizable, if we allow ourselves to become surrounded by that which darkens our existence. We too, must guard our light.
I pray for us all the discernment to know in relationships, as in cards, when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em, when to walk away, and when to run (to quote the great Kenny Rogers.)
P.S. I wrote this encouragement before the horrific events at the Capitol yesterday. I can only add that seeking discernment is not just a new year’s goal regarding relationships, but also applies to other choices we make in our lives that impact us and those around us. Our decisions – who we support, how we process their positions, what we do about consequences, whether we work for changes or run away leaving the work to others, how we explain the inexplicable to our children – define our society and generations to follow. May this year perhaps more than ever before bring each of us closer to Him to guide us through these challenging times.