Recently a young man grabbed me by the arm in the hallway before church. I was in a hurry, literally seconds away from going up to the stage to speak, but I could tell he was distraught, so I stopped. “I caught her again,” he said. Holding a baby in one arm, he used the heel of his other hand to wipe away tears from his eyes. “She said she was sorry, but this is the fourth time she’s done this. I’ve had enough. I kicked her out.”
My heart sank. I was heartbroken for him and enraged at her at the same time, but before I could hug him or pray or do anything, an usher came up and said, “You’re on.”
As I walked to the podium and began to talk, I could see my friend sit down in the far right-hand corner of the auditorium. Soon I was deeply engrossed in my message. Halfway through, however, much to my absolute disbelief, I saw his wife casually walk in, sneaking in the back door and squeezing past people to find a seat right beside her husband. I tried to concentrate and regain my train of thought.
Throughout the rest of my sermon, I occasionally looked toward the two of them—him staring straight ahead in a daze, her staring down at the floor. But as I began to wrap up, I noticed that something dramatic had happened: there was a seat in between the two of them. Sometime during the last half of my sermon, without fanfare, my friend had picked up his infant daughter and moved over one seat. It was a simple shift, but it communicated volumes to his wife and even to my friend himself.
That little action represents the first kind of distance we create in our relationships when we’re hurt: geographical distance. Sometimes it’s moving an entire state away that helps. Sometimes it’s just a zip code. Sometimes it’s across the street or into another room.
Sometimes it’s just a seat away.
Distancing ourselves geographically allows us space to regroup and heal. It protects us from even more anguish. Maybe you’ve had to ask your spouse to leave the house. Maybe you had to quit a job you loved because you worked for a boss you hated. Maybe you had to move away from your parents. I once knew someone who joined the military because he couldn’t think of another way to create enough distance between himself and his alcoholic father’s beatings.
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