Hurting Bravely

I met a girl, and my heart was sold on her by the end of our first date. I tried the best I knew how to pursue her with kindness, respect, chivalry and patience. But after eight amazing dates, she told me, “I’m sorry, but I just feel more friendship than romance.”

It’s been really hard. So. Many. Emotions. In that short season I felt such hope, excitement, and a sweet desire to shower one person in this world with happiness. But so much hurt, disappointment, anger and confusion has filled my heart since then. It kind of makes me not want to love at all.

Last night I ran into a friend who told me he had pursued a girl in his church singles group for a few informal dates over a month’s time. They hadn’t had any DTRs yet, but his heart was getting invested. Then she showed up at an event with another guy. Maybe no one did anything wrong, but he said he felt so burned that he just wants to quit dating in their singles group altogether. Then another friend told me today about a girl he dated for a few weeks. She broke it off and they’re trying to be friends, but the texts that used to excite his heart now just twist his stomach up into equally unpleasant knots. He wonders if it was ever worth trying.

Behind every door that may hold acceptance and joy, rejection and pain is also likely hiding there. I know even when love works out, it often involves pain; any love will likely bring some measure of pain. And the more times I am hurt, the more I wonder why I should bother trying. But as I was hurting this time, something different happened.

About the same time I was dating this girl, I started picturing my interactions with God a little differently. While praying, I used to imagine God sort of floating above me. But lately, I pictured Him standing beside my vulnerable little heart right there in a room the size of my chest cavity. I was picturing God as my heart’s roommate.

This sounds a little weird, but it was significant because whatever I brought into this little space, even love and pain from another person, was secondary to the bond between Him and me. My vulnerable heart has always resided in this place with my adoring Creator; He has always been my first Lover. And He always wants to hear about what hurts me.

So as my hard emotions about the girl welled inside of me, I told him about it. “God, I just feel so much anger and pain!” As the feelings grew and overwhelmed me, I felt like He said, “Take it out on me. I can take it. I plan your story and I plan hers.”

I leaned in and pushed Him. And then more painful thoughts came, so I punched Him. He wanted me to keep emptying all my pain into Him. So I let it loose. I kept punching and punching. And I was already leaning so far into Him that when my heart broke, He just wrapped his big arms around me and held me as I cried. 

As children, when we hurt we wrapped our arms around our parents and they held us until we cried it all out. This is what God wants me to do with Him. And the trust this builds gives me a security safer than anything in this world. And when I see I am ultimately safe, it assures me I can love again.

I will heal, and I will learn to love in wiser ways. But God whispers to me all the while, “It is still worth it to love again.”

Of course C.S. Lewis explains this better than I can.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” — C.S. Lewis, “The Four Loves”

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