The monsters will chase you.

Last year was my 20th high school reunion. I didn’t get to go but I had planned to go right up until two weeks before the actual event. I remember telling my mom who was coming, who wasn’t coming, and who I hoped was coming. I mentioned one particular name and my mom did all but spit on the ground and made the sign of the cross to ward of the devil. Which would have been extra dramatic as we aren’t Catholic.

This particular girl, a friend, had hurt my feelings so bad once in junior high that I sobbed on my mothers shoulder for hours while she rocked me in her lap and then I skipped school the next day because I was still just so upset. I have no idea what it was about. It was junior high and we were both smack dab in the middle of puberty.

I went back to school and before the week was out, we were friends again. We were friends, but my mom still hates that girl with an intensity and longevity that rivals the fervor of religious fanatics.

My mom would have sheltered me from any and all pain in life if she could have. I used to think that her inability to forgive the childish transgressions my friends committed while I was growing up was amusing.

I have three girls and I no longer think it’s amusing.

As soon as my girls started coming home telling us about their friends that hurt their feelings, my husband starting spouting a ridiculous sentiment that I silently classified as the most naive thought any parent had ever spoken out loud.

He would say that we were grateful for these disputes, arguments, disagreements, social dramas, hurt feelings and tender hearts because it gave our children a chance to grow and learn. To learn how to overcome these obstacles with a loving and forgiving heart. To try to emulate God’s grace. To learn how to push past the emotional pain and make the correct decision. To learn that sometimes the person that hurt you isn’t going to be sorry, they aren’t going to apologize, and they will most likely hurt you again. To learn that you can’t run away from your problems, you have to place your feet firmly and deal with the issue head on.

Wyatt EarpIt’s a sentiment worthy of a Hallmark Card. Worthy and True. It’s an epic lesson to teach your children. Perhaps the most important lesson. I’d agree if I wasn’t so filled with outrage. Mama Bear is way too busy trying not to channel Wyatt Earp in Tombstone.

“All right, kid… you called down the thunder, well now you’ve got it!” You tell ’em I’m coming… and hell’s coming with me, you hear?… Hell’s coming with me!”

When my husband got out of the Navy and he used a headhunter to find a good fit for his first job out of the military, the headhunter told him to “Try not to look so scary” when he was in the interview. He was rough around the edges growing up on a ranch in West Texas and the military took that and honed it into a relentless juggernaut of aggression when it comes to problem solving. He is not a gentle and sensitive flower of emotion.

He is the voice of reason when my kids hearts are wounded. Oh, the irony. The thoughts and words coming out of my mouth can not be trusted when my children have sobbed their heartache on my shoulder.

I would shelter them from any an all pain if I could. I would shelter them and that would be a mistake.

won’t winAs much as it pains me to say it, my husband is right and we need to be grateful for these childhood chances to learn.

Grateful for those childhood hurts and maybe wishing for more opportunities while we, as parents, have a chance to guide them. Grateful because as far as I can tell, adults that have no skill at processing emotional pain crash and burn. Crash and burn in a manner that takes decades, lives, families, marriages, loved ones, careers, homes and sometimes sanity with them. You can’t run from life. Running leads to ruin.

We have a family friend who’s wife told him 30 years ago that she no longer loved him, she was in love with someone else. He will tell you that he was too afraid to live without her so they never got divorced. The situation was too big, too scary, too hurtful for him to face the problem so he ran from the huge wave of devastation a divorce would cause. He avoided that first tsunami of pain, and hurt, and change but they never resolved the problem. They ran from it. They have just continued to revolve around each other in rollercoaster of hurt and pain for three decades. If you mapped out his life, that’s the moment his hurt became too much and he fell into his addictions.

It was a slow and steady slide: credit card debt, alcohol, sleeping pills, pain pills, lying to himself and others, stealing. His addictions and self destructive lifestyle have pushed him into the early stages of dementia or Alzheimers. He is a pale shadow of the man he could have been.

I can’t imagine how betrayed he felt when his wife told him she no longer loved him. I can’t imagine the fear he felt regarding the change a divorce would cause. The loneliness he would feel. I’m sure the pain would be enough to bring anyone to their knees in despair. But I bet it wouldn’t have led to 30 years of constant daily pain, a destructive cycle of addictions to avoid his life, and the utter ruination of his hopes and dreams. He ran and the hurt chased him down for decades of torture. He will die broken and unfulfilled by his life.

armorHe never learned how to plant his feet firmly and deal with his problems head on. He didn’t have practice pushing past the emotional pain. He didn’t believe in himself and he didn’t know how to seek solace in the Lord.

Don’t run. When you turn from your problems you are just facing straight into the temptation of your addictions. As far as I can tell, once you’ve taken that first step into your sins, your addictions, your cravings, you can’t stop. You will never be able to shake loose that terrible hunger. You can’t free yourself because you won’t be able to satisfy that need. Your need can not be filled by your addictions. That huge pit of despair, that endless depth of wanting can only be filled by God.

Be a fighter. Do not give up. You will stumble. You will fall. You will cry. You will hurt. You will cuss. You will lose. Just make sure you stand back up to fight some more.

Don’t run. The monsters just give chase.

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