My favorite part of our local zoo is the elephant exhibit. We’ll walk (and when I say walk, I mean travail about a half mile of San Francisco-style hills, generally with one child in my arms and a few others whining most of the way) to where grand paleolithic elephant and mammoth statues welcome us to their gigantic world.
These creatures are magnificent. Truly. Lumbering around, enormous, but oblivious to this as they play with their young and seem to tease their buddies over a sprig of lunch.
Yes, my friends, elephants rock.
Except when they move in with you.
You’ve heard of the metaphor “the elephant in the middle of the room?” Those kind–the issues we don’t want to talk about, the behaviors, choices or family secrets we’re hoping will just fly away–those can suffocate us.
But there’s one kind of elephant in the room that’s most dangerous. The kind that doesn’t stay in the room. It’s always around because it’s sitting on your heart.
This elephant’s name? It rhymes with resentment. Some people call it bitterness. But we’ll just call him Fred.
Fred’s the one that is crushing the joy right out of us and our relationships.
I first noticed Fred in my own life after a few years struggling with infertility. Then he put on a few pounds when the kids I adopted turned out to have mental illnesses and developmental disabilities. He really jumped in weight when my husband lost his good job and we went into a 4-year economic slump. And then when the guy in charge of one of our investments turned out to be a crook, and we ended up in a law suit where we lost near-enough everything? With that one, Fred had me pinned to the floor.
Or at least he would have, if I’d let him.
And he could have you pinned right now, too. Pinned down in fear, hurt, resentment, bitterness. . . and all the health problems that come with chronic, undealt with emotional stress.
There is ONE thing that we can do to send Fred packing. FORGIVE.
Forgive them, even if they don’t deserve it.
Forgive that, even if you’re still reaping brokenness in its wake.
Forgive Him, for allowing it, even if it is making you grow.
Forgive you, for the mistakes and words you wish you could take back.
All this? Much, much easier said than done. And if you’re struggling to breathe under Fred’s weight right now, you’ll need more than a blog post to help you get rid of him.
Which is why I’m so excited to share with you the resource that my dear friend, Suzie Eller released this month:
The Unburdened Heart—200 pages of sage, straightforward wisdom wrapped in girlfriend gentleness and grace from a woman who knows what it’s like to live under Fred, give him the boot, and live to tell the tale.
In the book, Suzie engages some of the hardest topics surrounding resentment and forgiveness without glossing them over or giving pat answers. Those of us living in a place of tender, fresh pain will feel loved and respected in it, even as she opens doors to joy and quietly invites us to walk with her through them.
I’ve read over 30 books on this topic as I’ve been researching for my book, Get Your Joy Back,* and Suzie’s is, hands-down, the best I’ve read so far.
So if you like elephants, but not when they’re sitting on your life, go get Suzie’s book. Or grab one for a friend who’s struggling. Or just pick one up for later when life throws you a curve ball and you don’t want to live under the weight of that situation forever.
You’ll be really glad you did.
*Get Your Joy Back releases in 2014 through Kregel Publications.