As I hunched over, crying my ugly cry, I finally took a breath after what felt like hours of unrelenting sobs. And then I allowed myself to acknowledge the truth: it was over; really truly, very much over.
At the tender age of 22, I had been engaged, and now it was off.
He was a good man, not perfect surely, but good. We thought we would marry and live out our lives in a way that seemed to make sense on paper. But as we got into the nitty gritty of life, it turned out that I didn’t feel like myself when I was with him.
And that was a problem.
But the truth always wins. It was not a conscious decision to become someone else for him, but I certainly made it anyway. But, like a phoenix whose purpose is to rise, my truest heart could only be tamed for so long. I tried to act like that wasn’t the story, but it was. And so we ended it.
I felt like I had boulders in my stomach as I marched through my days after our breakup. Nothing tasted good and I had circles under my eyes. I lost weight. It was hard to get out of bed in the morning.
To add insult to injury, I had also recently left my job in finance. It only took 3 months in that job to know that it was the worst possible fit for me.
So when I found myself sitting on my parent’s deck on that beautiful Pacific Northwest August day, I felt like I had lost so much. I had finished my basketball career, moved twice, completed my undergrad degree, broken off an engagement and left my first “real” job, all within the span of 5 months. And while some of these things were “accomplishments,” in a sense they were also hugely sad to complete.
Everything that I had been dreaming and planning for myself suddenly looked different.
With nothing to keep me from my task, I began to grieve and process the last several months. I can tell you truthfully, I have experienced a fair share of pain in my life. But this has been one of the only times that I essentially had no distractions and my only goal was to do the work of processing and letting go.
I didn’t understand grief like I do now. I couldn’t put technical terms to my experience, but that process taught me something so valuable:
The only way through pain, is through it. There is no magic pill, substance or activity that will do the work for us.
Of course, we need breaks and support, and resources as we go through pain too. But it’s when we give ourselves permission to feel the feelings that our body and soul can move through the experience and begin to heal.
There was no way for me to know then what would come of my journey, other than what felt like a glimmer of hope. The glimmer was a type of surrender to the Lord that I had never known before.
It felt like I had nothing more to lose (of course I still did), and I wasn’t afraid anymore. So much of my life had been ruled by fear. And for the first time, really in a long time, I began to think about my life in possibilities. What if I did this? What if I tried this? What if I moved here?
And so after a season of grieving and gathering and dreaming and praying, I did.
I moved to Denver, Co and allowed God to meet me here.
This beautiful state has facilitated so much healing in my life. It was here that I began to learn how to rest. It was here that I began to lay down my perfectionism. It was here that God birthed in me a desire to serve people through counseling and it was here that I met and married the man who would journey with me to heal my wounds.
It’s always easy in retrospect to tell a story with a good ending. But today, I wonder if someone is still in the place where they are sitting in their pain? They aren’t through that part of the story yet. And honestly, I'm not sure how your story will end.
But I can tell you this: whether you are in the valley or the hilltop, God longs to meet you in the broken places and journey with you through pain. I don't celebrate your pain, but I am grateful for the beauty that comes from ashes.