I’m walking with a young friend through a breakup. I’m grieved by her pain, and honored by her trust in me in equal measure. Don’t you remember the deep, physical pangs that come with the loss of love? It’s like the side piece gets ripped out of your life’s Jenga tower. Everything is falling all around you, everything hurts, everything looks like loss to you. The future feels dark, and unsure. Like my friend so honestly lamented, “I don’t remember how to live without him.”
This friend’s breakup has me revisiting the time when my own little heart was broken. I remember the weight of my grief, and my utter inability to see any light in the days ahead. If I could reach into the past, and grab past-me by the sobbing shoulders, I would lead her to my grown-up couch. I’d cover her in my favorite grown-up blanket with Pom-Poms on the corners, maybe not so grown-up after all. I’d make her a cup of coffee in my favorite grown-up mug. She’d sip between sobs, and gaze through misty eyes at my grown-up wall of family photos, all kisses and silly grins. She’d see her future self, repaired and strong, and she’d know that God somehow redeems the lost years.
If you could counsel your younger self, what advice would you give her? If you were face-to-face with that younger woman, how would you have compassion for her? After all, she was doing the best she could with the tools she had. Was younger you, like younger me, a bit careless and selfish sometimes? Was she more naïve than you are now, a little slower to take advice? Of course she was! But, she was also brave. She was a dreamer and she was vulnerable, and somehow or another her mistakes delivered you to the place you inhabit today.
Maybe your heart is broken right now. Maybe it’s just starting to scab over, but the slightest bump or nick will tear it open all over again. Maybe you’re healed, but you’re carrying regret. I wrote you a note. I wrote my friend a note. I wrote myself a note.
I know you feel lost. I know everyone around you is moving right along with their lives, and you feel like you’re standing still. How can everything look so normal outside, and be so jagged inside of you? I know you’re trying to pull it together, but your mind is warping everything around your grief. You’re measuring time by your loss. “This time last week, I was in a relationship. This time last month, I was in a relationship.” You’re avoiding common things, and places, because they’re too steeped in memories. That special sweater. That cute little restaurant. That song. Be gentle with yourself, dear one. Yes, you should cry. Yes, you should nap. Yes, you should look into counseling. Be exceedingly kind to yourself.
There are some well-meaning friends who will try to cheer you up. “Time to move on!” they’ll say. But you know that it’s not. They might try to dissect what went wrong, and give you advice you didn’t ask for. They fidget, and try desperately to fix, because your sorrow crashes like waves over them, and they feel helpless soaking in your pain. They can’t bear to see you grieving, so they’ll try to push you through the door of hope. But you, dear one, won’t go until your ready. One day you’ll confidently cross that threshold. Today is not that day. In the meantime, I pray God will provide you the gift of a present friend to offer a listening ear and a sturdy shoulder.
Finally, dear one, I beg you to avoid one last temptation. In the middle of your sorrow, you might feel compelled to redeem this story. After all, you’re more than a conqueror in Christ, aren’t you? What are you showing a watching world if you can’t find the silver lining in all of this? There needs to be a thread of goodness in here somewhere, a clear lesson God is teaching you, some way He’s bringing this all around for your good and His glory.
Why, when we’re standing in the rubble of our broken hearts, do we think that God needs us to grin, and be his hype-man? Sweetheart, he doesn’t. Put that burden down. Perspective will be afforded you when this tragedy is in your rear-view. Redemption will come with hindsight. There are lessons to be learned, and faith to be strengthened, and an amazing testimony being forged even now. But today’s not the day to testify. Today’s pain will turn into yesterday’s memories. In the meantime, I pray God will give you the faith to sit among unanswered questions and unresolved emotions, and wait for the luxury of clarity that comes with a little time and distance.
As each new day brings new pain, and eventually less pain, please borrow my faith. You don’t have to believe a word I say today. I know that down the road you’ll find your faith again. This is a season of protection, not a season of punishment. God can handle your anger. He holds your every tear. He turns mourning into dancing. And he absolutely does redeem the lost years.