She wanted to be single forever. How could she choose otherwise? She had seen her mother suffer a terrible marriage. She had hated every moment when her father would come home drunk and cause so much trouble and take away her piece. She had tried so hard to study only for him to call her and rant and abuse and shout. Any time her drunk dad spoke to her, it was to remind her how stupid she was, just like her mother. She almost started to believe that maybe she’s actually intellectually challenged. This affected her academic performance. She hated the fights between her parents and above all, she hated how her father would abuse her mother. She could not stand the cries of her mother. She had seen her trying to hide her tears many of these evenings. She had seen her trying her best to prepare a good meal and do everything possible so that her dad would not create a scene when he comes home to no avail. She had seen her mother try her best to please her dad only to fall short, woefully short.

She was caught between her envy of seeing her school mates so happy and close to their dads during parents’ visits and the stories she heard her friends tell of betrayal by their boyfriends and how men are dogs. She had come to conclude that all men are the same. True love does not exist but betrayal and hurt. She came to the conclusion that those parent visits are nothing but make-ups to hide the reality of a loveless home. She had to convince herself that love does not work. It was the only way she could console herself. How else would she believe that true love exists, hope to get it, only to be hurt and injured? The only person she could trust, she reasoned, was herself.

What was strange to me was that she passionately believed in God. But God is love. For one who has faith, everything and anything good is possible. All things work out for good to those who believe and trust God, the scriptures say. So, how could one believe so passionately in God but stick to fear? True love chases out all fear! So if there is God in you, there should not be fear! But then, it all became clear.

You cannot change people. You can believe that they are easy to love only to find that they are not. People are not a reality that you can manipulate for them to respond with faith and love. You can do so in business and our current economic model shows that indeed you can manipulate whole generations to uncritically believe that happiness can only come with owning more. Unfortunately, you cannot manipulate people into loving honestly and selflessly. There is no love without freedom. This is the reason why increasing people choose to be single parents and to love animals instead of people. People are hard to love, including you who is reading this. A dog demands nothing! It responds with gratitude even to the smallest of favours! So we cannot manipulate people. But we can manipulate our idea of God. We can create an idol.

This is what happened to our friend. Today, many people have changed how God has revealed himself to be to what they want him to be. It is the case of people creating God in their own image. Instead of believing in a God who says that you must love your enemy, do good to those who harm you, love your neighbor as you love yourself, forgive those who have hurt you, today you have many people who are comfortable holding their anger and hate as if it is a trophy while saying that God is the only one they can believe in. it is not uncommon today for Christians to live a life that is clearly condemned by scriptures while still identifying as Christians. They do not want to change for God. They have changed God to fit their desired lifestyle. And this is what our friend did.

Instead of asking God to help her respond as He would require to those who have hurt her, she used God to close off everyone who hurt her. Jesus wants us to treat with compassion those who have harmed us. It is not easy! But believing that that is not what he wants is not right. If you have a physical wound, see a doctor, don’t simply pray about it because you don’t trust doctors. Similarly, if you suffer an emotional or psychological wound, don’t take a spiritual bandage and try to deal with it! Honestly deal with your anger. Let yourself heal from the disappointment that you have gone through. Don’t accept to live in an unreal cocoon of self-sufficiency where you go around with a mask of fake happiness whereas loneliness and emptiness pervade beneath. It is not God who is letting you down or is not listening to you; it is you who is ignoring the path he has given. “When you come to offer sacrifice, and you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your offering there, go and get reconciled with him and then come and offer sacrifice!”

Therefore, allow yourself to heal and to grow. Accepting what is painful as the new normal is not right. Fear, or whatever you might want to call it – caution, once bitten twice shy, experience – is not a path to fullness but to emptiness.