**honest note: this is another doozie, friends! go pour yourself a cuppa coffee... and take some time to read this one.
When Annie asked me to write about the topic of breaking up and readjusting to singleness after being in a relationship, I just smiled. In the last few years I walked through this very season of life, and through the pain and surrender of it I found my heart set ablaze for God in a brighter way than ever before in my life. Today, I look back on that season of my life with a sigh and a slight smile. Knowing what I do now, seeing the past with clear 20/20 vision, I am thankful. Thankful I walked through the heartache of losing a relationship - even though, at the time, it felt as though the Lord was asking me to cut off my right arm. Now I see how wise He was in directing me the way He did, in closing the doors He closed, in taking away from me something I cared about. I've always been careful about dating; I'm not a girl who dates much at all - and if I do, I am very selective and don't just date "for fun." If I can't see the guy as a possible future husband, I end it (or don't start it.) So, I am really no expert on this subject because I haven't endured very many break-ups. Yet, I have been through a few hard ones and I'm acquainted with heartache. Breaking up is hard to do, dear sisters. But when you walk it out with Jesus by your side (or sometimes, you just gotta let Him carry you) I promise it will be okay.
Listen as I share my heart and some practical things I learned about breaking up, readjusting to singleness, and pursuing Christ in the midst of all the craziness. All our stories are different. Break-ups happen for a myriad of reasons. And each heart responds, grieves, and mends differently when broken. Each and every relationship is unique and each relationship that ends breaks up differently. Yet I believe women's hearts were created by God to feel deeply and sensitively. Whether you are currently going through a break-up, have been through one in the past, or are happily single or in love today - my prayer is that you find encouragement to pursue Christ through this blog post.
Perhaps you can relate with this following example. Or perhaps you can just imagine it. Either way, picture with me a scene:
Your heart sinks. You can't believe your eyes, your ears. He is leaving, walking away. He shuts your door behind him and you run to the window, watching the light blue t-shirt disappear into the darkness of the night, get into that old car, and drive away. He's gone. You sink into the love seat where you sat with him moments before, and tears flood your eyes as pain fills your heart. He's gone. The scent of his cologne lingers on the chair where he sat... suddenly, you can't breathe. You lay your head on the arm of the loveseat, taking in the last little piece of him you will ever know. You know it needed to end. You know God has a plan. But in your heart? Oh, what a different story. Your heart isn't logical at all. Your heart is a swirling mess of emotions, feelings, and pain. You can't sleep. You can't eat. You can't breathe. Sometimes, you cry so hard you throw up. Each moment, each day that passes brings some new fresh wave of acute pain. The first morning when you wake up and there's no usual "Goodmorning, Beautiful" text on your phone from him. The first time you must go somewhere without him - walking into a room of people even feels lonely. When you are asked how he is doing by a well-meaning friend and you must explain, "Oh...we broke up." The first time you hear your song on the radio and the memories just come flooding back. When you find his hat in the back of your car - the one he left there on your last beach trip together... and you lose it. When you pass a car on your way to work and it's the same model, color and year as his - and you gasp and begin to cry all at the same time. When you start avoiding certain restaurants or stores because there are too many memories there of times spent with him. When the 1 week-to-the-day mark hits - the 1 month...2 months...3 months... and the pain is just as searing as it was at the 1 hour mark. When you can't stop thinking about what you lost. You cry yourself to sleep every night and plod through every day, asking God "Why?" and wishing you could just wake up from the nightmare.
Oh my friend, I have been there. And while, perhaps, your response to the loss of a relationship is not quite as dramatic as mine (yes, the above story was based on true events!) -- my grieving is something akin to Marianne in "Sense and Sensibility" when she loses Willoughby (Right, Jane Austen lovers?)
Hey, I love hard, I grieve hard, and I express those emotions. But darling friend - we've all been there; we've all felt (in some way or another) the battering winds of the hurricane of heartbreak. And I want to encourage you, in the midst of the pounding rain and icy cold wind of loss and grief, hold onto Jesus. I beg of you - don't let Him go. And I, speaking from experience, would like to share seven ways to do that practically:
one // know this: it is a big deal. Don't let anyone diminish your pain. Because it's real and it needs to be walked through. Although I've never truly been "in love" (not the "You're a bird, I'm a bird" kind of love) I remember when I went through my first heartbreak over a guy I truly cared about. A few well-meaning girlfriends said, "Get over it! Move on. He wasn't that great and he didn't treat you right anyway." What they said was true. Still, I cared about the guy a lot - and the loss of the relationship, the friendship with him even, was painful. Yet, it was more than just heartbreak over a lost boyfriend. In all honesty, I knew the guy was kind of a jerk, I knew the Lord wanted me to break up with him, and I knew he was not "the one" I could see myself walking down the aisle toward in a white dress someday. For me, it was the loss of a dream - the dream of marriage - moving further and further out of sight. As Proverbs 13:12 says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life."
Also, I want you to know this: breaking up is a big deal because (and I firmly believe this) each romantic relationship takes a piece of your heart you can never get back. People may argue this, but it's true. No matter how big or small the relationship was. Whether you dated for 6 months and never even kissed or if he was the love of your life for 4 years. I don't care what the world says: physical intimacy on any level means something, and when the relationship is severed after sharing that intimacy, hearts will be broken and it will never be forgotten. A woman's heart is like a rose. It can only be battered and handled so many times before it falls apart and wilts. Be careful with your heart. Be careful in choosing who you date. Be careful with your purity. This is a big reason why breaking up "is hard to do."
two // remember that big girls DO cry. When a plastered smile on your face and a mantra of chanting - "I don't care, it doesn't matter, he's not mine. I don't care, I don't care..." melts into a mess of tears and you hate yourself because you do care ...yet you know he is not right for you... you have to admit something: it hurts. And that's okay. It's going to hurt. It's gonna hurt like h-e-double hockey sticks! (Hey, just tryin' to keep it PG here :) In the first 24 hours of my first breakup, I jumped in the car and headed down the highway to the nearest beach town for a day out with my girlfriends. I smiled, laughed, said "Yeah, girl, I'm totally fine!!!" I drank iced coffee on the beach and took pictures. At the end of the day? I sank into my bed alone and cried harder than I ever have in my entire life. I tried to be strong and "fine" but it didn't work. I needed to be honest. And that felt weak and ugly. Yet, it's necessary. Grief is a natural and healthy part of life, my friend. It's not fun and it's not glamorous. But it's needed. It is necessary to fully grieve if you are going to move on someday. So cry it out. Get that tissue box and sad song, and cry. It's okay. The tears are healing. Don't try and put on a plastic smile or happy face and push those feelings away. They'll just rear their head again someday. And remember one of the most comforting truths God speaks into our lives: "You number and record my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle - are they not in Your book?" -Psalm 56:8
three // read the psalms. I couldn't take it another minute. On day 3 of a broken heart, I came to the end of myself (AKA became tired of watching sad movies and crying my eyes out) and so I washed my face, sat down alone on the floor of my apartment and I opened my Bible. A wise friend of mine had suggested I read through Psalm 101-Psalm 139 "If you can't take the dark feelings anymore." And so I did. I sat cross-legged on the floor, with a mug of coffee in my hands, and I read and read and read ... truth upon truth, tears falling freely. Man, it gave me hope. The indescribable peace that can only come from God. And though it sounds simple, that was one of the most memorable moments of my life. For the first time in my adult life, I experienced sorrow and was lifted out of it by nothing but the Word of God. It's an amazing experience of hope. And though this sounds crazy, I wouldn't trade that break-up for anything in the world. So in your dark moments of heartbreak, go - open that Bible and read the Psalms. Full of real, raw honest human emotion and comforting truth. Like this: "I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes... The Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer." -Psalm 6:6-9
four // cut ties and move on. Or, in other words: delete him from Facebook. Or at least, block yourself from seeing his updates. I know this sounds harsh and I also know everyone's situation is different - some people break up and are just fine being good friends after they part. But in these more "messy" situations of heartbreak, I recommend cutting ties and moving on. Can we be honest here, girls? If you are constantly checking his Facebook, looking at his latest pictures, monitoring any and all females that may write on his wall - stop. It's not helpful. It's not helping you move on with your life and get over him. "Out of sight, out of mind" is not true in all cases - but I believe it's true in this case. If you find yourself often re-reading the cards and letters he gave you and then throwing yourself on the bed in a mess of sobs more than a few times... it's time to take drastic measures. You've gotta stop obsessively his relationship status on Facebook. You've gotta stop pouring through photos of the happier dating days and thinking over what you lost. Yes, it's healthy to grieve and cry and work through the loss. But eventually you have to move forward and move on with your life. In a lot of ended relationships, an ex will continue to contact you. I've experienced that, and though it gives you glimmers of "hope" in the midst of the loss, it really isn't helpful in most situations. Again, it's the principle of guarding your heart. Be careful with your emotions and heart, protect yourself, and if necessary, take drastic measures to do so in the midst of heartbreak. "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." -Proverbs 4:23
five // find a strong, godly supporter. In those moments you want to call him, want to give up, want to go back to bed, quit your job, stop living life and crawl under your covers in bed and never get out. When you can't stop watching Nicholas Sparks movies and eating boxes of chocolate - you need someone. You need someone you trust who loves you to help you out of the pit, which I affectionately call (having lived there several times myself) "the depths of despair."
Exhibit A: remember this? This is not where we want to go, ladies.My mom helped me so much in times of heartbreak. She patiently listened to my crying, my regrets, my fears - but she also helped me out of the dark place. She encouraged me in gentle ways to move forward. She reminded me of truth: the truth of God's love for me, the truth of His plan, and of the realities of what I lost, which (in honesty) was a guy I am now very thankful I did not commit my life to. Find a godly, strong, mature supporter to cheer you on. You cannot do it alone.
six // get out there and serve fearlessly. I know this is the last thing you want to do in the midst of a relationship loss. But, friend - it is one of the only ways to move on. Getting out of yourself, your pain, your heart's hurt - and looking to help and serve others will drastically change your outlook. One of the downfalls of a broken heart is inwardness and selfishness. I know you don't want to serve. I know you'd rather just stay home and cry. But the time for that must end eventually and you must move forward. The best way to move forward is to give - to forget your troubles for a while and think of someone else. So volunteer at church, simply write a friend a thoughtful card, make cookies and give them to your sick neighbor, buy Starbucks for the person behind you in the drive-thru. It will make all the difference and you might find yourself smiling. As 2 Corinthians 6:10 says, "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing."
seven // get to know the lover of your soul. You are single again. And that is okay. It's not the end of the world. In fact... it's a beautiful opportunity. I know, I know - hand-holding, Friday night dates, sweet texts and a cute boy to call you "pretty" is wonderful. But at the same time, being single is wonderful and fun, too! Last year, I decided to stop thinking of singleness as a scary, lonely awful black hole and I began viewing it as a precious gift. Spend these precious moments you would otherwise use Skyping with a boyfriend to sit at the feet of Jesus and pour out your heart to Him. Let this season of singleness be an offering to God - a form of worship to Him. Use this time to enjoy being just you and the Lord. I've found singleness to be a special, beautiful, rare and sacred time - a gift and a chance to grow and learn. I once had a chance to ask one of my role models, singer Rebecca St. James, what she wished she'd done differently while still single. She said that she wishes she had spent more time "grooming" herself for her groom! Learning how to communicate, love others well, learn practical skills like cooking and homemaking, and becoming more like Christ. It is a unique, beautiful time - perhaps the one chance in this life that the Lord gives us a window of time in our young years to get to know the Lover of our Souls without the distraction of a boyfriend, husband, or little ones. Don't waste it. Cherish it.
Keep your chin up, beautiful. Yes, it's hard and painful. Cry it out. Find peace in God's truth. Get a support system around you. Go out and serve. And when you fall into the depths of despair - if a boy breaks your heart or life crushes your dreams in another way - run to the feet of Jesus and rest in His peace. After all, He loves you. And he cares about each one of your tears: they are in His bottle. Single, dating, breaking up, or married - we are His daughters. And that is the most beautiful comfort of all.
Sweet reminder to us all, in every phase of life:
"Hold everything in your hands lightly,
Otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open."
-Corrie Ten Boom
Photo Credit: Photographer, Karen Kingsbury
Love to you all
and prayers for you who walk through valleys of heartache
only to rise to the heights of healing through
the lover of your soul setting your heart ablaze
with the passion of His love.
*This post is dedicated to my sweet sisters who are walking through a heart-wrenching break-up right now. Friend, if you need someone to talk to or to pray for you, please don't hesitate to e-mail me @ email@example.com