Sunday, December 11, 2005

Great Experiences of Life, Part 1: Relational Heartbreak

Christians do not simply see God's goodness in Sunday School lessons and touching devotional lessons. We see God's goodness in the collective experiences that together comprise our lives. God is not simply good when we feel good about what's happening to us. We see goodness in times when we feel quite the opposite. Unlike the perpetually optimistic brand of Christianity some espouse, biblical Christianity reads into all of life the sovereign working of God to shape His people and reflect His glory. This fascinating process involves hardship, heartbreak, exultant joy, static numbness, and all else that comes upon us as shades of a prism. In this new series, I'm going to explore a number of these experiences and talk first about how we go through them and then how they represent, regardless of their first appearance, the goodness of God woven into our lives. This discussion will obviously center in my personal life (with little detail) but will share much, I'm guessing, with the experiences of many.

First up is relational heartbreak. We've all had it. Why do I call it one of the "great experiences" of life? Because it is cathartic. Relationships have a funny way of involving all our faculties. First, we are charged through with great emotion, seemingly unstoppable, that steals our sleep and invades our concentration. Second, we use rationality to consider our intended flame. What kind of thinker is she? Does she like sports? Is she coldly calculating or emotionally driven? Third, we taste something of the spiritual as we ponder the giving away of ourselves to another. What sort of union must this be? Surely it goes far beyond a shared house and set of goals. There is a deeper reality to relationships than just the emotional, and just the rational. Clearly, they are complex undertakings.

How impactful, then, is heartbreak. All three of the above components come crashing down, mixing together to form one big glob of hurt. Emotionally, we are seared as with fire. Hours and hours invested in the other person. Those moments we allowed ourselves to dream freely of the future, if only for a few, are now dashed, necessarily shoved away from our mind before it has time to know what has happened. And our rational selves. How we strive to see the flaw we missed, the hangup we excused away, the divergent pathway we swore was our own. Spiritually, the connection is broken. There will be no union with this one, no discovering of the mystery of two as one. No, we are emotionally drained, rationally frustrated, and alone in the kitchen, or the dining room, or the gathering. Alone with our thoughts, no matter how much activity swirls around us. Those who are just a phone call away are somehow much more distant, as far from us as the movie actors we see on screen. They are part of our world, yes, but they are not. We cannot truly know them, nor they us. Heartbreak is a powerful thing.

There is such tremendous good in heartbreak. God's goodness is all through it. In it, we find our inadequacy, that deep insufficiency we must dig to discover. We pad our fragile hearts with accomplishments and accolades and compliments and self-manufactured statistics and end up like the hypothermic swimmer with ten layers on: well padded but fundamentally weak. Heartbreak takes us by the neck and shows us hard-core that we are so insufficient, that we are not really the all-star we think we are, that we're just foolish people doing the best we can in a foolish world. We don't have it all figured out. We can't play it all right. We're just as confused as the next guy. In the face of heartbreak, there's no pretending. In fact, there's no ability to pretend.

Beyond this, though, well beyond this, is the overpowering grace of God that comes clear in our sight in the midst of heartbreak. So we tried. We gave it our best shot. It's all a mess now. Well, you know what? That's okay. God prevails. God exists. God is here. God is in this. We're in the dust, Job-like, with only our hurt for company, and then we look up, and we see very Sovereignty Himself. He's near us, with us, and He has come to bring solace and healing. What sweetness it is to experience this in a hard time. Heartbreak magnifies the goodness of God, clears it all away, and leaves us alone with God. It is cathartic, involving all of our being, and it sweeps over us, leaving us changed for the duration. There is goodness in it, directing, shaping, molding goodness that reforms us by the same hands that bring us pain. Heartbreak is a great life experience.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen, my friend!
Without heartbreak and those times of feeling utterly alone, we would not be forced to see ourselves as we are. Sometimes, these moments drive us closer to God, which is the ultimate purpose...unfortunately, all too often, we forget He is in the equation and sometimes the heartbroken look for comfort in the arms of another person, rather than their Heavenly Father. Ashamed, I must say this has been me on several occassions.
Until you realize Jesus is your First Love, you will continue to experience relational heartbreak. Oh, maybe you will stay with that person and maybe even marry, but you will have your moments of heartbreak and loneliness - your marriage will not be fulfilling as God intended. I almost made that mistake...Yes, the person I was engaged to was wrong for me and that event never should have happened if I had been close to my One True Love. But a broken engagement and a broken heart needed to happen for me (and actually, both of us) Without that, I would not have seen how important my love life is to my Savior and how very much He wants to be a part of, let me ammend that, He wants to be the center of it. It took me so long to learn that and a lot of mistakes along the way, but God prevailed! Sometimes He has to bring us to our knees to point out the obvious...
So, yes, relational heartbreak shows God's grace and love for us in ways other heartbreak could not teach us. Relationhips are an intimate thing, something which we take to heart in a big way. It's no small thing to face a heartbreak, but when we do, there is a lesson in it and it points to God. We have to be sure not to miss it...
Wow - I wrote a book. Really sorry! I like this series, Owen - I look forward to reading the rest of it! Have a wonderful week! Praying for you...
Your sister in Him,

6:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heartbreak...what a wonderful time of reflection, as long as we are not consumed by analyzing it all. I am going to truly enjoy this series. I am currently investigating what relationships truly mean to me. This is surely going to help me out. Thanks, Owen.

11:13 AM  

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