A couple years ago, I rescued a dog. I knew immediately when I saw her, she was the one I wanted. She was small, adorable, terrified, and precious. Life had already been unkind and unfair to her. I was instantly filled with compassion, because of the cruelty she had experienced.
There is a place deep within me that longs to create beauty and wholeness out of devastation and heartache. Looking at her, I remembered how tenderness from kind people helped me to find the healing I needed. I was determined to do the same for her and show her just how beautiful life can be.
Redemption begins by exposing our shattered parts, so they may be restored into a beautiful whole.
The past impacts us, but it doesn’t have to define us. When we hide our wounds, we keep ourselves isolated from healing. The parts of us that have been trampled on or untended to can be redeemed when we are vulnerable and share our wounds with those who are kind and caring.
When I brought her home, this precious, little dog recoiled at the sound of my voice and at the touch of my hands. My heart broke for her. Hands that should have been used for tender petting and comforting embraces had been a source of pain and cruelty. In her experience, open arms were not a gesture to run towards but to flee from.
Our painful experiences tend to create in us a mistrust of others. And that mistrust often leads us to run and hide, lest wounding re-occur. However, I knew, if she kept running and hiding even though it was now safe, she would never discover or enjoy all the ways this world can be kind and loving. Her past would define her and keep her from healing.
So, with tortilla chips in my hand and no expectations in my heart, I laid on the floor and waited. Every time she came close, risking nearness to the hands she was terrified of, I responded to her with tender hands – and tortilla chips.
Overtime, her response to my voice and my touch changed from fear and fleeing to excitement and closeness. Little by little we were building trust.
Painful experiences aren’t redeemed quickly with force but slowly with compassion.
These days, my small, adorable, and (now) bold dog seeks me out to snuggle, and it still breaks my heart – but now with immense joy. Because of the trust we have built and the healing she has experienced, she trusts these hands will only ever offer her comfort and kindness. Her wounds have been redeemed so her heart is free to enjoy all the beauty life has to offer now.
Deep down, regardless of the exterior we present to the world and to others, we all long for safe arms to snuggle into. I remember the times in my own life when hands weren’t used for tender touches and voices weren’t used for admiration. These painful experiences created wounds and mistrust. And like my precious, little dog, my heart would flee even after it was finally safe to open up.
However, running and hiding only concealed my wounds; it didn’t heal them.
When I began to expose those shattered parts of myself and consistently found compassion and comfort in return, little by little, healing came. Kindness replaced harshness. And as those once shattered parts of myself were tenderly mended and redeemed, those parts of me were free to live rather than hide.
Redeemed experiences allow us to live out of our wholeness instead of our wounds.
I don’t know the ways you’ve experienced betrayal instead of love, what hands brought a violation of trust instead of tenderness and comfort, or the voices that uttered criticism instead of admiration. But we all need a safe place to find healing from past painful experiences.
Find a person with tender hands and tortilla chips.
And then become the tender hands and offer kindness to others.
Together, we will redeem this world, as our painful experiences dwindle into beauty and wholeness.