I remember sitting in my bedroom, all the lights turned off, door locked, wrapped in all of my blankets and clinging desperately to my childhood teddy bear. The tears wouldn't stop coming; I wondered how I had this much water in me still. My voice was raw from crying and my eyes had never been puffier. Even if I had been surrounded by all those who were closest to me, I still would have felt alone.
When a heart breaks, it really breaks.
Physically, I could feel it. Every part of me ached. Nothing made me smile. I was looking at the world through a pair of sunglasses; everything was dimmer and grayer and dull. I remember friends and family trying to console me, offering prayers or my favorite candy (Snickers) or a joke, anything to get my broken heart off of my mind, but it just wouldn't work.
I don't remember how long this went on for- several months of forcing smiles and retreating back to the darkness of my room (or any room where I could be in solitude) to cry. I was too exhausted, mentally, physically, and emotionally, to do much else. The hours spent on the bedroom floor, sobbing and yelling at God will be a time in my life that I will not soon forget. Hoping that the anger and pain would lessen with each fist I pounded onto the floor, I became even more bitter to my situation.
My self-worth decreased to a low I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy.
"I don't know if you've ever reached a place like this- the place where your whole life seems to have fallen apart. Maybe it was your doing, or something someone did to you...or maybe all of the things you were hoping would make you happy finally cracked and fell apart." (The Lipstick Gospel)
I truly believed that I would never be my old self again. I felt like I was trapped inside of a strangers body-never have I been so uncomfortable-but nothing I did would remove the sadness I felt. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't shake the pain.
Often times, it's not a big revival we need to shake us awake. Sometimes it's a mundane task that makes the room seem just a little brighter. Somewhere among the midst of this pain, fourteen simple words forever changed my life.
It was a Sunday, and Sunday's in the Donovan household mean all seven of us climb into the minivan and head off to church. As I had done for the past few months, I begrudgingly drug myself out of bed and went through the motions, crossing my arms and hardening my heart. From the moment I stepped inside, I was checked out, until the readings began.
"But Lot's wife looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt." (Genesis 19:26)
This sentence has become ingrained in my mind, and that moment, sitting in the pew, my heart fluttered to life for a few seconds, the first time it had done so in months.
Going home, I raced to my room, locked the door, and pulled out my bible that was gathering dust on the cover. I flipped to the story and read, then continued to read. In that moment, I made a decision. I was no longer going to allow myself to wallow in self-pity. Doing that so far had gotten me nowhere.
The following months were difficult, no doubt. But each day I tried to put my focus on something other than my past. I intentionally sat outside and found something to admire the beauty of. I made myself listen to more positive music instead of Taylor Swift on repeat. I allowed myself to laugh at my siblings jokes. I chose a few friends that I trusted and confided in them about my struggles. I told them that I needed to make a life change, and I was going to do that by putting my full faith in God and his plan for my life instead of questioning why things were happening to me the way that they were.
I had to become very intentional about my thoughts. Yes, I still allowed myself to cry. I believe that crying is great medicine for a broken heart because it releases emotion that can't be released otherwise. If I ever found that I was drifting back to that place where I had been months ago, though, wrapped in blankets and covered in darkness, I racked my mind for Genesis 19:26.
Soon, I didn't even have to think about it. I was still raw and my heart was still missing many pieces, but my step was lighter and my laugh was as bubbly as it had ever been. You see, I gave up my anger and declared a personal victory when I allowed myself to move on. I dropped my anchor in God's truth instead of the "truth" I had grown to listen to, and it made all the difference.
I recently read a book online called "The Lipstick Gospel" by Stephanie Wilson. (If you haven't read it yet, you can download a free version here). As I was reading it, in my mind I saw my broken self years ago, curled up and believing that I would never be worthy of love, or of anything really, ever again.
Stephanie's story is my story as well. Whether it was a broken heart due to the loss of a family member, a devastating accident, a break up, or a myriad of other things that this world throws at us, you know what I'm talking about.
"I never would have thought about getting to know God if it wasn't for that broken heart, and I'd never had been able to get over it without God helping me through it and then healing me." (The Lipstick Gospel)
If I had never had that experience, if my heart hadn't been completely shattered, smashed, stomped on, and ground into pieces, I never would have found God, at least not the way that I have now.
"God had a better plan, and I was hearing it for the very first time. Relationships don't have to look like I'd always thought they should. There was a better way to do it, one that hurt less and loved more." (The Lipstick Gospel)
With my broken heart came a pursuit of a lifelong love. Being pursued by Christ was, and is, an experience unlike anything else. I learned more about myself than I would have at 20 years of age without that heartbreak. I learned and experienced what real love feels like. It was "a whisper of a love that stretched so far beyond anything I'd ever seen-the kind of love that makes you cry standing in its presence."
When I came home from church that day, after shifting through Genesis and then moving onto the New Testament, my heart started beating again. Tears rushed to my eyes, but it was a different kind of emotional crying I had grown used to. I remember being so overcome with emotion that I did cry. Wave after wave of love poured over me. I lifted my hands up and fell to my knees- this is what love was supposed to feel like.
I asked God to heal me, and he did.
Thinking back to this time in my life, I could be bitter. I could look back on the people and situations that brought me to that moment and allow the weight of the world to fall back onto my shoulders, but because of my experience with Christ's love, I don't have to do that.
So I am grateful for broken hearts.
I am grateful for the rawness I have felt in my life.
I am thankful for hitting rock bottom.
I appreciate the vulnerability I have had to express in order to pull myself back up.
I am humbled to acknowledge that broken hearts don't heal themselves on a schedule.
In your own time, when you are ready, you will begin to heal. And in God's own time, and in his own way, he will move.
To the people and situations that have broken me, thank you.