“I will give you rest from all your enemies.” 2 Samuel 7
Who are my enemies? I gained insight into the answer to this question when I lived in l’Arche.
Life in l’Arche was very intense, being with the same people twenty-four hours a day. Even most married couples get breaks from one another when they go to work or pursue individual interests. In l’Arche, there was very little time or space to be away from the others; we were almost always together. And that created many opportunities for my buttons to get pushed.
When I lived in l’Arche, I used to say that I met myself every day—and it was ugly. Every day I was meeting the parts of myself that were wounded, broken, unhealed. And those broken places were my real enemies.
They kept me unfree. They were my insecurities, old hurts and fears.
Every time I acted out of some broken place, my enemy was in charge, making decisions, saying hurtful things, being selfish.
It was exhausting. I felt like I was under siege and the enemy was within, so I could hardly escape it. At some point, I realized that the only way out was through.
With God’s help, I was able to begin to face my old hurts and open wounds, taking them on one at a time. Eventually, I realized that what looked like my enemy was really my friend and that befriending my old wounds was the way to become free of them. Just that realization—without having done any befriending—was a great relief.
Over time, I came to accept my old hurts as the gifts they really were. I came the see them as opportunities for me to grow stronger, more compassionate and forgiving, more accepting of myself and others.
I won’t say that I finished the work of befriending my inner enemies. They are still with me and probably will be until the day I die.
When Jim was preparing to die and reviewing his life to see where he still needed inner healing, I remember one day when he was struggling to make peace with an old hurt and it became clear that he was not going to be able to let this one go. It was an “aha” moment for me—“Now I understand why someone came up with the idea of purgatory,” I said. “I guess we all take something unresolved with us when we go to God.” He breathed a sigh of relief: “I’ll take this one,” he said, and then moved on to process something else.
I think the rest God offers from my enemies comes from accepting, letting go and moving on.