Jud is reading Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward and Craig Buck. Last night, he hugged me and whispered, “I’m sorry for what that man did to you.” He had read about the effects of sexual abuse on children. He teared up when he looked at me. For the first time in my life, I felt like someone actually FELT what it was like to be me. Long-held defenses that I’d forgotten I forged melted with those tears of his. As we talked about what he was reading and how it described the battle the abused face, I was able to describe my own struggles with shame and body-image that have become second-nature to me.
“Do you feel heard” is a buzz-phrase in our culture these days. It’s a great starting place and I wouldn’t discourage that level of understanding another’s point of view. But sometimes, when a heart lies raw and has tried to find the courage to express the deepest wounds it possesses, that heart needs someone to feel its pain and experience the wound. I didn’t know I needed Jud to be ‘one’ with me in my pain from so long ago. When we talk about marital ‘oneness’ in Christian circles, we rarely (if ever) mean fully experiencing another’s life.
After last night, I understand Jesus’ words afresh: “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one–as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” (John 17:21). When we can feel another’s experiences, then we can truly love another. That kind of love should not be limited to marriage or a sexual relationship. I echo that prayer for all who attempt to know and follow Jesus–may God make us one.