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“When someone is in your life for a reason……they are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrong doing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up or out and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered, and it is now time to move on.”—Iyanla VanZant (from her book “Acts of Faith”)
So many times in the last few years, I have found myself referring to these words. Life is like that, no matter what age you are, you will always experience loss of some kind. These are necessary losses, whether we choose to see them as such at the time, or not. We may not have felt prepared to deal with these losses, and certainly didn’t welcome them, but nonetheless the time to exit came.
Only in the rear view mirror can one see where the loss shaped us and how we grew in the process. I do have to add a caveat here. We will only move forward and grow, if we choose not to stay stuck in the past and if we choose to forgive the loss. If we hold a grudge for the loss, we won’t be able to let it go.
I have struggled many times with the “letting go” part.
It’s not easy to let go. It requires abilities we think we don’t have, to perform this act of saying good-bye. But the very process of struggling with this, is the necessary process we have to move through, in order to emerge whole. The alternative is walking around in broken pieces. We’ve all met people like this. They have a story (or two) to tell of how they were wronged. How they were victimized and how they still suffer today. They wear it like a badge. Not with pride, but as a weight on their shoulders that gives them just cause for being upset and hurt (still after all these years). I know because I too have been there.
I’ve had my stories. I loved a man who I lost to suicide, I have been divorced twice, I have had to end toxic and abusive relationships. On the flip side, I have been the one that hurt others. But that’s not the stories I usually share. The ones that get the most mileage are the ones where I was the victim.
Everyone suffers. Everyone has unique challenges. Everyone gets hurt. This will never stop from occurring as long as we draw breath. But, the flip side to that is, everyone has the capacity to feel joy, love, and hope. It really is a choice.
I remember once meeting this wonderful woman at my job. She was like a breath of fresh air in the engineering world. Pat was someone who after you spoke to her, you never walked away feeling heavy and burdened. I began to take notice that she always offered you a grain of hope to hang on to. At the time I met her, I was at the beginning stages of my marriage’s collapse. My heart was heavy and my thoughts were racing.
I decided that I too wanted to be that for other people. I realized that up until this point if someone talked to me about a problem or issue, I was only able to see the darkness in their moment. I would commiserate “yes, that’s terrible.” Consequently I’m sure they walked away feeling just as bad or worse than before talking to me. I couldn’t see this before. I was blind to what I was doing. Having this wonderful woman be an example, I was able to study and pay attention to how she decided to handle conversations. She was non-judgmental, validated your feelings, but also looked to the opportunity to build. So many of us (women especially) are always in need of self-esteem building. She would always give you a positive affirmation or observation of a skill you possess, to send you on your way feeling a little bit better about yourself. Your problem was still with you, but she offered a light bulb moment, so you didn’t feel heavy, but lighter as you walked away from the conversation.
This beautiful friend moved and left the company, though I am blessed that we have remained in touch. She perhaps unknowingly gave me a very valuable gift—one that altered me forever. She taught by example, the healing power of words. It is our choice if we choose to use our words to heal or tear down. This example also applies to our self-talk. We know how other’s words have hurt us, but we sometimes forget that our words can be used by us, against us.
Sitting at lunch yesterday with a dear friend of mine who recently went through a divorce, I heard these words: “I’ll never get married again, and I’ll never date again.” The image of oversized cold steel doors slamming shut, reverberating down a long hallway, is what I saw in these words.
I understand it is hurt that’s talking right now. I understand that he did and said some terrible things that someone who knows love does not do. Here is this loving, generous woman, who may be shut down forever, on account of some crazy guy with a dark and lonely heart. But here’s the thing, it really isn’t on account of him. It would be on account of her choice, if she were to so choose.
I too have been hurt, I have been broken-hearted, but I choose not to give “past destruction” the power over my “future.” They may have trampled on my past, but I’ll be darned if I’m handing them the knife, to rip apart my future. Oh no! No you don’t! That is not theirs for the taking. My future is in God's hands and He has plans for me.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”—Jeremiah 29:11
The lesson that we draw from pain is never to close our hearts to love and joy. Never is the lesson to allow darkness to consume us and snuff out the light God has infused in us all. Never is the intent for us to prevent the flow of love from coming into our world. We may think “Oh no, that’s not what I’m doing. I will still love people.” But what you can’t see— when you are the one who is using this precise language of negativity and isolation— is that we cannot allow light in. We may think, “No, I have not closed my heart,” but we are blind to how powerful the words we speak out of fear, really are;
When we say “Never….”
Standing indoors, while there’s a sunny day on the other side of your shutters, you have the choice to open the shutters, allowing light to seep in, or because of fear (that you may allow in something that will hurt you) keeping them shut. When they are shut, you shut off all flow—the good with the bad.
Same analogy applies to God. We cannot allow Him in to heal us, if we have our shutters closed to him. Our mind acts as the shutters. Our mind makes itself up to hide and run away because fear has taken a grip of it. We are hurting from the pain, and we don’t ever want to hurt again, so fear lies to us. Fear is one of the greatest liars. It tells us “well then shut the door and never let anyone else in. That will keep you from ever getting hurt again.” We think that by never letting anyone else in, we avoid pain. We’ve also closed the door to allowing in loving people who are on our path to be a part of our healing.
People have come into my and your life for a reason, even the ones who have caused pain. They came to teach me to learn how to discern healthy people from unhealthy people. If I can’t discern, and I give the green light to a toxic relationship, then it’s a guarantee that I will get burned, and I will suffer. I gave the okay; I was the willing participant in that relationship. Sure, while at first it feels better to blame this ‘lousy person’, in the long run, when he’s moved on with his life and I’m still stuck in the past, feeling pain of long ago, I’m the fool hurting myself. I can no longer blame anyone but myself.
People don’t take anything away from us that we don’t willingly give up. (I’m talking about adult relationships here) We women (and some guys) are famous for thinking we can change another person. We meet him and he comes already as damaged goods because he never did the necessary work to heal himself. We take him in because we think, “All he needs is someone who can understand him and show him what love really is.” We voluntarily become their psychologists, though they are not actively looking to heal themselves. Instead they are looking for a doormat they can lay their trash on and who doesn’t complain about it. The relationship’s foundation is laid on a fantasy. Both parties expecting different things, but neither is accepting accountability at the onset. Fast forward a few weeks, months, years and heartache is imminent. And we wonder why he had to go and hurt us like this. It starts with the person in the mirror…..always.
Please understand, I am not saying that we deserve the pain and disrespect because we allowed it in. That’s just it. We don’t deserve it. So why do we let it in? Investigating this is part of our healing and letting go process. We are accountable for who we choose to let in to our lives (and our children’s lives). We have to be extra cautious when we have children, because bringing pain onto ourselves is one thing, but our lack of discernment will be responsible for causing our children pain. They are the truly innocent here— all the more reason to learn discernment.
The Lord wants to prepare us for the blessings he has in store for our lives, but we are not ready to receive unless we are open—Unless we have cleared the way for these blessings. We are like a clogged drain if we are stopped-up with unresolved pain and bitterness we hang onto. We must see these toxic relationships for what they are: lessons to learn from as we prepare our hearts for greater things in life.
You’re not teaching your ex a lesson by saying you’re never going to date again. You’re letting his darkness consume you and your future. You are giving him the green light to destroying your future. We can’t change the past. It is what it is. He may have had a stranglehold in your past suffering, but now “you” and only you have the power to decide who plays an active role in your present and future. From this moment on, “You” not him, are hurting or helping yourself with the decisions you make regarding your healing.
You deserve to be loved. You are loved and lovable. You are loved by the most supreme and powerful love of all, that of our Creator. With God on our side, who can be against us? What matters who tries to be against us? We have His blessings and love.
I want to share with you a visual that I call upon in moments where I have felt pain and isolation. You know how a parent cradles a baby, right up to the bosom where one can feel the warmth and heartbeat of the all encompassing and safe embrace of a parent? That is what I imagine. I imagine myself in God’s arms. He is cradling me against His omnipotent heart, as His strong embrace encompasses me, protecting me. After this, no one can hurt me. They can try, but their attempts are pale, when I have the ultimate love that is encompassing me.
In the rear view mirror you will see with more clarity, how God used this painful moment in your life for your ultimate good— But only if you are open to healing, instead of blaming.
I am sympathetic to the sadness and the pain. I have dwelt here too many times to count. I know that after a break up or break down in a relationship, the pain can thrust you into a depression and a feeling of helplessness. An overwhelming sadness overtakes, as we mourn the “what could have beens.” I have written many a broken-hearted poem during these times. I have drenched my pillows with many a salty streams. There is a time for this. It is part of our healing— this mourning. But I am here to encourage you that there is more, so much more beyond this state. In fact, I would implore that you not stay in this state too long, because you will prevent the healing that’s awaiting you.
Reach out to people despite your embarrassment. Despite having lost touch with friends. We understand, we love you, we want to help, but reach out. If you are ignored or turned down, move on to the next person to reach out to. Sometimes people are too wrapped up in their world to notice this moment for what it is. Reach out to strangers also. Talk to that person next to you on the bus, the person standing in line at the coffee house, on the elevator. Someone, out of all those attempts, will turn out to be there standing beside you that very moment for a reason. But you miss it, if you don’t take the step of faith and reach out.
I have met many a stranger who later became friends this way. I am constantly introducing new friends to my life, in this very manner. Sure, some may think I’m crazy and not respond, but that’s their issue. They are the walking wounded—afraid to connect. But there are others in this beautiful world of people in need of connecting that would welcome your reaching out, and invite you into their world to talk a while. Even if these relationships last for 1 conversation. That’s okay. That was the “reason” they were there in your life. Be thankful they showed up when you needed that talk, and set them free. You too will be that in others’ lives. It is such a powerful feeling to know we are all here connected for the purpose of being here for each other— to show love this way.
Read the following words, knowing that our Almighty God understands our human condition. He wants us to know that tough times befall everyone (so we are not alone in this). Though he validates these moments occur in life, His intent is not for us to dwell on our past shipwrecks. He has designed for our lives times of rejuvenation and joy. But we must choose them.
A time for Everything
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die:
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones togther;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”