My first heartbreak happened when I was five years old. My beloved dog Coconut was forced to move to a new home after "accidentally" playing a rough game of hide and seek with one of our neighbor's pets. I did not handle this transition well because Coconut occupied a huge place in my life. I can still remember how salty my tears tasted after visiting the new owner's home the first, and subsequently, the last time. Even at such a young age it was evident to me that emotional pain completely sucked and should be avoided at all costs.
Fast forward a decade or so to my teenage years, which consisted of all the angst and emotional turmoil that normally comes with that age, except multiplied by 2 because I'm me and I've always believed that if something is worth doing then it's worth doing well (insert eye roll and exasperated parental figure here). In true teen style, I experienced additional heartbreak in the form of some unhealthy friendships and a dating life gone awry. And I started thinking and rationalizing that being comfortably numb (thank you Pink Floyd) would be better than walking around wearing my heart on my sleeve.
As I moved into adulthood, got married and had my first child I realized that a person was capable of experiencing deep emotional hurt but also an amazing sense of love and belonging. I think I subconsciously decided that my heartbreak avoidance plan would involve pouring myself out and into my small family and slowly retreating from the rest of the world. Of course this didn't happen overnight and there is definitely a season where social connections can be strained when family life is so demanding; but when I look back I realize that I made choices out of fear rather than necessity.
And this is the place I find myself...deeply invested in a few and minimally invested in many. And I'm not okay with that scenario any more. I can feel and hear the ice around my heart cracking and...It. Scares. The. Crap. Out. Of. Me.
In this life heartbreak is inevitable, but the more people I love, care about, invest in and do life with, the more opportunity there is for it to occur. Is it acceptable for me to say that I don't like this fact? Because, I really don't. Why can't I just love people and experience the good and not the bad? Is it necessary to feel so deeply for others? Is it even healthy? Why would God design us to have our hearts broken so easily?
I definitely don't have all the answers to these questions but I have found some clarity in the Bible (shocker!) in regards to the purpose of difficult, strong emotions. Psalm 34:18 says, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit" which illuminates the concept of dependence on God. Most of the times in my life when I felt closest to God were when I experienced hardship, tragedy, confusion, and heartbreak; but only after I had exhausted all of my resources and had nothing and no one to fully rely on but Him. God wants us to want Him. He designed us to need Him. I think heartbreak reminds us of this need and helps us start, renew or dive deeper into a relationship with Him.
However, heartbreak is not just the result of human error or something to be avoided, there are actually times when God calls us to be broken hearted, to embrace it even. In Joel 2:13 scripture states, "Don't tear your clothing in grief, rend your hearts instead. Now return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not to punish."
When we rend our hearts we tear away what keeps us away from God. This sounds painful because it often is. It's not easy stripping away people, activities, or things that have occupied God's place in our lives for so long. That's why the word "rend" is used and not "fix" or "change", which are way more passive. The word rend literally means to tear or rip something violently or forcibly. Other definitions refer to rend as "to lacerate mentally or emotionally." Basically, nothing about the word paints a pretty picture.
In order to rend my heart I have to embrace broken heartedness. To allow myself to be uncomfortable. To choose pain over temporary happiness. I've been so pre-occupied with being comfortable and "happy enough" in my little bubble that I have missed out on life-altering opportunities because I was scared of the emotional toll that I perceived would be too costly. I'm still scared. Scared of judgment, scared of criticizing remarks, scared to give the wrong advice, scared to be rejected, scared I'll sacrifice and no one will care or notice, scared I'll be called a hypocrite, scared I'll lose friendships, and scared I'll be called to sacrifice my standard of living. But I'm also hopeful...and hope is powerful.
I saw a quote once that stated, "Lord, help me put aside the things that are breaking my heart so I can pray about the things that are breaking yours." That seems like a good place to be willing to start...
*Do you find yourself in a similar place emotionally? Need further inspiration? "Give Me Your Eyes" by Brandon Heath is my current anthem! https://youtu.be/P5AkNqLuVgY