Way back in 2007, I wrote a post about the end of a relationship. 2007 was long enough ago to forget a lot of the day-to-day details, which means I thankfully do not remember 95% of the awkward conversations I might have had.
But I remember THAT conversation. Everything about it. The smell of her kitchen, the wobbly table that I stupidly thought I might volunteer to fix, even as our relationship jumped the barrier to never being fixable. I remember the heavy feeling on my long walk back home. The flush on my face, the weird toxic hot pocket combo of anger and intense loneliness and panic.
I remember sitting down and writing that blog post, and I still have to be amazed that I wrote so coherently in the midst of such inner angst. That breakup shook something loose at the core of who I was. Things I had assumed about myself for my entire life were revealed as illusions, and I suddenly found myself without an anchor in stormy seas. If I had known what would come next – the haze of doubt and depression and lack of enthusiasm for life that would follow me in an aggressive dark cloud for months to come – would my thoughts on the page have been so coherent and hopeful?
It’s strange to re-read those words. That girl doesn’t occupy much real estate in my mind or my heart, and hasn’t for a very long time. She was wrong for me in almost every way. She looked incredibly good in anything she wore. She wrote very well. She was artsy. She was smart, and could debate me for hours. Those few qualities tend to outweigh all other considerations in my arsenal, they make the red flags she was waving which screamed “DEAR STEVE: RUN FROM ME!!!” blur into a bright yellow smiley face that said “Dear Steve: ignore my avoidant tendencies and larger-than-life insecurities and just enjoy the free-fall down sanity mountain, brother!” That is, until things become so unbearably broken and tense that my insecurities harpoon whatever chance was left to salvage the flaming 747 fully boarded with dashed expectations. And I said, “Smoke ’em if you got ’em, kids.”
In short, I get nerd goggles.
The end of each relationship I’ve had since then, I’ve gone back and read that blog post from 2007. I’m reading it now, again, and fresh wounds are now in need of mending. Something inside of me WANTS TO BELIEVE that one day, when I die and am safely in the arms of a loving God, these heartbreaks won’t matter.
One day…I WANT TO BE SHOCKED HOW MUCH THEY NEVER HAPPENED.
But they did happen. And sometimes old wounds are reopened and become fresh. Sometimes, like now, new wounds open wide. I need to believe that there is a redemptive purpose behind these pains, because I have found that the deepest hurts stay with me. They might numb and fade, but they will travel with me everywhere I go.
I can feel silly for still resonating with them, when so many the world over are dealing with heartbreaks so much larger and more profound. Syrians leaving their villages by the thousands. Another man, woman, or child being diagnosed with cancer. The man who’s been unemployed for a year and knows he’ll be on the street in less than a month. How can damaged relationships compare with matters so much more serious?
But even as I write that last paragraph, I know it’s not really true. Our individual heartbreaks are not a matter of scale in comparison to the heartbreak of others. It’s rather a measure of our personal state, we resonate and react to those things which have a personal impact to ourselves.
Will these heartbreaks disappear when we die? I don’t think I believe that they do. In fact, IF I BELIEVE THAT LOSS AND HEARTBREAK SERVE A REDEMPTIVE PURPOSE, then they CAN’T just evaporate. If the essence of who I am lives on past my physical life, then so also must the tragedies of my life.
After His resurrection, Jesus still had the holes in his hands and feet.
Rather, it must be as Joseph says: “What was intended for evil, God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result…” (Gen 50:20)
What I mean to say is, God will take every broken heart, every expectation that failed to pass. He will take every instance of two well-meaning but broken people who tried and did what they could but it just couldn’t quite happen. He will take those things, and if we can allow it, He will take them NOW and allow them to work inside us. He will transform these things inside of us, and we will be transformed by them. And He will CONTINUE to do this, until the shadow of this earthly life becomes night, then morning as eternity bursts forth all around us in a newness we have never known.
The hurt will slowly, slowly, but permanently, be transformed into the blessing of strength and perseverance and newness. It’s like the hurt never happened.
I think it will shock us.
Epilogue: Still, there will be moments where the daze and haze of heartbreak will threaten to overtake me. It will creep up at unexpected moments. And sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m not playing that game anymore.