I’ve tried to start this post several times and I just haven’t been able to figure out the right ‘angle.’ Is it going to be about my recent break up? My health scares? My doubt in my faith? How much do I share on such a public platform, where friends, colleagues, family, and strangers can see into the deep and murky crevices of my soul, but may ultimately benefit from knowing that someone else in the world is walking through pain similar to their own?
It’s going to be a mix of all those things, but I don’t think it will turn out the way I had pictured it when I mentally started drafting it 2 months ago or even how I reimagined it as I wrapped up meal prepping 15 minutes ago.
I ran away last month. Well, the grown-up version of packing snacks and books in your backpack and running down the street only to turn around and come home an hour later because you’re tired, bored, lonely, and hungry (those snacks never lasted long enough).
My 2018 got off to a rocky start. One ER visit mid-February was followed by a break-up at the end of February, which in turn was followed by the onslaught of chronic headaches and countless trips to the doctor and ultimately another ER visit mid-March. I’ve been in pain, both physical and emotional, more days than not this year. I’ve had countless blood panels, 2 sets of x-rays, 2 EKGs, 1 head CT with contrast, 1 head CT without contrast, 1 MRI, and 2 lumbar punctures. There have been many potential diagnoses: chronic migraines, Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension, thyroid issues, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
I had a break-up in the middle of it all. It came unexpectedly and left me confused, heartbroken, angry, and alone.
What was God doing? Where was He in all of this?? This was *not* how my 30th year on earth was supposed to go.
So, I ran away. One of my best friends from college knew she would be traveling for an extended period of time and, knowing what I’d been through and how much time away would help, graciously offered up her gorgeous one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco for me to to use. This was perfect – my company has an office in SF so I could go for an extended period and work, with the benefit of having a home where I could still cook, do laundry, and ultimately rest far away from the problems I would leave behind in Boston. I planned on giving myself a ‘full break’ – no boyfriend to think about, no doctor visits, none of my infamous vacation spreadsheets planned down to the 30-minute increments, and…no God. I wasn’t going to deal with Him on this trip – this was for ME. He had abandoned me at my lowest – I kept praying for peace in my soul, healing in my body, mending of my heart and He was doing none of it. If He wasn’t going to talk to me, I wasn’t going to talk to Him.
(Wo)man plans and God laughs.
That first day in town, a Friday, I cried. I was lonely. I was scared to be away from my doctors (even though I was told it was ok to go). I missed my routine and my room and my friends. And so even though I fully planned on sleeping in all weekend and lounging around, that Sunday God had other plans. He woke me up bright and early and told me to go to church. I googled a few and found one that looked similar to my home church in Boston. I got ready, grabbed a bus, and made it just in time to hear [this sermon] on redemption. Fortuitously (or was it divinely?) there was an ‘Eat Up’ (get it?) for newcomers to grab lunch with church members right after service and I decided to go…little did I know I would meet several interesting people, 2 of which significantly impacted my life for the better throughout the remainder of my trip.
“A” became a fast friend and was always up for an adventure. He took me to see all of the best sites in the city – the highest views, the oldest bridges, the prettiest cityscapes. On our adventures we talked about hard things, namely our respective recent breakups. I shared with him my health struggles and my doubt in God’s goodness that accompanied them. “A” shared a piece of advice he’d heard from a pastor – that many of us expect God to be a ‘helicopter God’: a God who comes flying in to extract us from the surrounding perils and hardships. In actuality, the Bible never talks about a God who hovers over us promising to remove us from tough situations, but instead is an anchor and a foundation – the thing that keeps us grounded in the midst of a storm. This may seem like a small or obvious understanding of God, but for me in that moment, it was a reminder I needed to hear.
“L” and I didn’t hang out as often as “A” and I did, but when we did meet up for lunch, she also shared about her recent break-up (gosh, is it something in the water? First Anna and Chris, then Channing and Jenna, and now us too??). “L” also brought up a new podcast, Dateology, she was listening to that was hosted by 2 people from the church I was attending in SF. I started listening to it when I got back to Boston and it has been such a refreshing take on dating as a Christian in a metropolitan area in 2018.
Fast forward to today. Last night I said something to someone about my ex and I shouldn’t have. I woke up today feeling regret, shame, and anger at myself for giving into pettiness. The song ‘Proud’ came on my playlist on my drive to church and it was everything I could do to keep from crying and ruining my makeup – the lyrics perfectly summed up what I wanted to say to God. I got to church and I just know today’s sermon was written specifically for me – it was on Psalm 73 and talked about – you guessed it – doubt.
A few hours after church my ex reached out to me because of the thing I’d said yesterday and my stomach just sank – here it was, my hurt and anger and pettiness on display for the one person I wished to never see that side of me. He asked if he could call. I said yes.
We talked for nearly 3 hours – the conversation I’d been wishing for for months. It was hard to have the muck and mire of my soul on display, to know I had sinned against the last person on earth I wanted to talk to.
But you know what? It was amazing. We both got to share what had been on our hearts – offenses, misunderstandings, wrongs, and pain – and to extend grace and forgiveness to one another. We got to laugh together. And at the end, we got to pray together. As hard as it was to reopen what I thought was a mostly-healed wound, it was one of the most redemptive relational conversations I’ve ever had.
As I was meal prepping this evening I was listening to Dateology, specifically the episode titled ‘The Mess.’ It so perfectly summed up the conversation I had just had with my ex and I had this massive revelation – one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments only afforded by distance and time: look at all God had orchestrated. Just look at how everything from the past several weeks culminated into perfect alignment today. This mundane, run-of-the-mill Sunday, which started off so full of shame and guilt and ickiness unfolded into this brilliant sequence of puzzle pieces dropping into place. If we hadn’t broken up, I never would have gone to San Francisco. If I hadn’t been so lonely, I wouldn’t have sought out church and met the people that I did. I would never have gotten the perspective on my relationship that I did – that it wasn’t a failure, but a ‘successful dating relationship’ (as my mentor so lovingly calls it) that didn’t end in marriage and that that was a good thing. I wouldn’t have learned about Dateology and heard messy truths delivered by insightful strangers and heard today’s episode which so, SO perfectly aligned with the conversation I had just had with my ex. I also got to hear a song and a sermon that spoke to the exact needs of my heart and share both of them with you (the sermons usually take a few days to get posted, so it’s a such a blessing I get to link to it right now!).
Today was a day I want to remember, so I’m writing it down. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for sticking with me on this winding road. While I can reflect on it and see the beauty and wonder and glory that went into crafting this day, it’s still hard. I’m still sad, I still have questions, I still house doubts. It’s amazing to me that all of these things – these truths, these events, these feelings – can all coexist. I still have questions and I still have things to figure out, but I can see God working for my good even in the moments of decidedly-not-good.
Psalm 73: 28 – But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
Thank you for letting me share some of God’s deeds in my life. Have you ever walked through a time like this? I’d love to grab a coffee and talk about it.