My story is one of heartbreak. No, seriously. Last year I published a blog post titled “An Expert at Heartbreak,” where I wrote about how, as much as any one person can be at a subjective thing like heartbreak, I am pretty much an expert because of my experience in that area.
I don’t say that to brag. There is nothing honorable or glamorous or sexy about the fact that I’ve been in not one, two, or three serious relationships—but four. (I wish you could see my face cringe as I write this out. I am all but writhing from the shivers of nausea going down my spine).
But it’s true. Relationships—broken relationships—are a pivotal and poignant part of my story. They have played a huge role in my life and in my past.
One day I was thinking about the fact that this is my story: relationship after relationship ending in heartbreak and hurt. I let my mind take a trip down the hall to the part of my brain that stores those memories—some in wooden, some in glass, some in metal boxes. They were all stocked up, tight and secure—rusted, moldy, and cobweb-infested. With crowbars, hammers and axes, I crashed, broke, and tore open the boxes. I stood there solemnly as they leaked, oozed and poured out.
One after another, memories illuminated the IMAX of my mind. Some were beautiful, some were bright, so many were unbearably painful.
It was difficult to remember some of those relationships. I could recall so much of the good, but I could feel so much of the bad. It was easy, so easy, to point to the many times I was cheated, shorted, and hurt, and say: “That’s why my heart broke; it was their fault.”
But as I watched those movie reels play, and allowed myself to feel, I sensed God nudge me ever so slightly, as he often tends to do. And what I realized was that the only person I have to blame for the many times my heart broke, was myself.
I was the one who ignored every call, every flag, and every warning sign. I was the one who chose selfishly, greedily, and proudly. I was the one who loved each one of those relationships more than I loved Jesus. I was the one who consciously and decisively gave my heart away to someone just as broken and flawed as I was, instead of giving it to Love Himself.
If I wanted to, I could have listened. The shadows of doubt from some of those relationships loomed large over me while I was in them. They were thick and tangible before my eyes; I could’ve reached out and touched them if I wanted to.
I could have been more careful. The red flags from the early days of some of those relationships floated up like stark, solemn, silent voices of warning; they were like stench off the musty ground.
But I didn't listen. I hardly sought counsel, and the counsel I did seek was ignored when it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I wanted nothing but affirmation for my feelings and validation for my choices.
I believe that if I had spent more time developing my relationship with the Holy Spirit, I would have heeded his warnings. If I spent more time growing in my love for Jesus, I would have known my value and my worth, instead of seeking that from the people I dated. If I had been obedient instead of pursuing selfish desires, I would have saved myself a lot of heartbreak.
I believe God wanted to keep me from a lot of the unnecessary heartache I endured.
All of this is not to suggest that God didn’t want me to have been in any of these relationships at all, of course not. I had lovely moments and positive experiences from each of them that I wouldn’t take back. But I do believe I could have done so much more to protect my heart, and that of those I dated.
However, even after I had this realization that my heartbreak was my own fault, I was reminded that Jesus is so sweet and so good, that he uses even our poor choices and mistakes to do something beautiful in us.
The story of Jonah is reminiscent of this. God gave Jonah a very specific command—to go to Nineveh and preach (Jonah 1:2). Jonah did basically the exact opposite of what God asked him to do—he fled to Tarshish by boat. This wound Jonah up in a deep and dark place—the belly of a great fish. But when Jonah cried out to God and vowed to make things right, God used him to do what he had purposed for him to begin with:
“When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple…But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed.” Jonah 2:7,9 (NKJV)
God was so gracious despite Jonah’s disobedience, that he still used him!
God is so loving that he will still cause good to come out of our messes.
So now, this is my story. Despite my mistakes and amidst my heartbreak, God has made mine a story to share: one of hope, healing, renewal and restoration. God has graciously allowed me to use what I have been through to share the beautiful, redeeming message of the Gospel. And even while my heart has been ravaged by heartbreak from the past, I am not broken, and I am not lost.
What a beautiful God he is, to make something beautiful out of someone like me.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)