How intricately love crosses love; love makes knots; love brutally tears them apart. I have been knotted; I have been torn apart.Virginia Woolf
As I sit here on a Sunday morning typing this in rainy and cold Lincoln, my hands are a little numb, I have a puffy jacket on at my desk as though I’m in the middle of Antarctica and my legs have been shaking for a good hour in these joggers. It’s ridiculous how cold I feel in 45 °F weather and yet, I’m told it’s only going to get worse. How are you, dear reader? How have you been spending your days? With intention? Exhaustion? Good old giddiness and drive? Are you overwhelmed with gratitude for your sweet and dear life? Or do you live with a little ache in your chest that you push back down just to make it through each hour? Like me, are you ricocheting between all these emotions and more—in a season of whirlwind where some days are a vortex, swirling around you, threatening to drown you?
And other days, there’s a hand, a prayer, a kind word, a phone call that holds you up, touches you, warms your heart, urges you to stay, reminds you of the beautiful truth that your life is held and no matter what may come, if there’s one thing that does not and will not change, it is your Father, the Lover of your Soul and you can trust Him with all the pieces. That there’s a place we can turn to and lay down the burdens, the uncertainties, weariness, heartache, the heavy, crippling, isolating deep-piercing, brutal fear in exchange for peace.
The will to make these decisions every day has only gotten stronger in this season of my life—the will to choose to get out of bed, to choose to make an appointment with a counselor, to choose to pick up a book and read, to choose to show up for my students, to choose to answer the phone and talk when I’d rather hide in the shadows, to choose to open up and let friends in (thanks to Kasey for bringing me croissant on a cold Thursday morning and thanks to Celie for our coffee date). To say yes to spending time with someone is also to say no to keeping myself sheltered, alone, plunged, and stuck in the muddy thoughts of loneliness (thanks to April for the trip to Seward. I got to see all the loveliness and taste the good food of a small town.)
I’ve been thinking about ways to write this post without sounding like a girl on the internet whose heart’s a little shattered and has experienced an incredibly difficult month. Because while that is true, there are also other truths I’ll choose to dwell on instead. But yes, I recently shared a piece on Instagram about how I was adversely affected after what was really a whirlwind romance came to a painful end. It is ironic just thinking about how October was still a time of celebration when I received the news of the Narrative award. And right there, in the thick of a relationship falling apart, there was goodness happening around me, people everywhere cheering me on. Somehow I spent my days carrying quietly the two vastly different emotions- excitement and devastation. And that too, had its own exhaustion.
The relationship was fast, unexpected, beautiful, true, and yet, like many others, fraught with its own challenges and gaps. I share this with you because—well, I’m not exactly sure why but perhaps writing this is my own attempt at self-admission: that I had something that was good, exciting, sparked my eyes with glee a lot of days, made me more patient, more intentional, and I know for him, his happiness was unmatched, his heart, full to the brim. And while it is over, while I wish that it could have ended in a way that didn’t bring out our worst and stain a good memory of what was, I understand how our pain can do that to us, and I am slowly making peace with it.
I’m thinking about Mary Oliver’s poem, The Uses of Sorrow:
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
During this period, I am learning more about myself, my unhealthy proclivities, my codependency, naivete, my submersion into habits that do not serve me well, my firm grip on what has hurt me, so much that my grieving becomes enraged, and my loss of trust, of friendship, and of love, hardens me, keeps me emotionally jaded, forces me to push back and isolate and insists that I remain unforgiving. I see clearly the hidden and fearful parts of me—they’re exposed and brought to light and now may this pressing and crushing bring new wine, new life. I am paying attention, and I am working to be better.
It fills me with tremendous joy knowing the endless flow of grace that abounds to me, that who I am is deeply steeped in a heavenly-woven identity, and that I have unconditional access to the love and power and guidance that allows me to be all that God has called me to be. It is what I have been using these new days of healing and silence and waiting to do: pondering on what is true and feeding on it. Because how quickly the lies come, how heavy the darkness that shrouds my little downtown apartment, how disquieting and unbearable the loneliness but look at God: in all His knowing and power, His detailed and purposeful love, His gentle touch, His unbelievable timeliness, His good and pure motives, His steadfastness, Holiness, His mysterious and never-changing ways, He comes right through for me.
I am not sure how a heartbreak story became about a loving and redeeming God. Actually, I am. I like to think my God delights in the business of saving and restoring. As Bob Goff writes, God loves us “without keeping a meticulous record of our screw-ups” and He asks, “Will you take what you think defines you, leave it behind, and let Me define who you are instead?”
I have always said I want a love that sees me for who I am—cracks and all. And truthfully, I have found myself gravitating towards anything that resembles that. I was sure I had found the right people when they chose to stay. But it is only now I am coming to terms with the shortcomings of man in this regard—that while I may be loved and seen in ways that matter to me, the ultimate and truest expression of love can only be found in God.
Of course, this is not to say that love is meaningless (because it isn’t) but that, I think, I want to love and be loved in a way that stems from God’s love for us, that my expression of it is wholly informed by Who He is and drawn from His heart, an acceptance of what we’ve been called to walk in, and the knowledge that He alone sees all of me and does not turn away from me. Even then, to seek to live this way wouldn’t be easy. So it is quite ridiculous to expect from others and also to attempt to offer this level of perfection in a relationship or friendship. I am learning to forgive in the face of disappointments and betrayal, to extend grace to others as I would hope to be extended to me. I shall continue to strive and press on, looking to Him, the perfect embodiment of love. Here’s one of my favorite writers, Jackie Hill Perry:
“Could it be that God would not have me going about the rest of my life believing that these lesser forms of “love” were the real thing? Perhaps this love He, filled to the brim with, was pouring over into His dealings with me. And perhaps this love was compelling Him, on the basis of grace—an undeserved love—to help me see that every person, place or thing that I loved more than Him could not keep its promise to love me eternally.”Jackie Hill Perry, Gay Girl, Good God
Prayer Dear God, I need You. I need You. I need You... This love thing is a little messy and hard and I have no idea what to do with the emotions I carry. I invite you into the mess and my little breaking heart. I want nothing but Your will and the strength to trust, no matter what comes my way. Thank you for Your enduring love, it brings me back to You again and again. Amen.