It sounds like a back-to-school essay topic. What did you do last summer? But it’s not the essay I planned on writing.
I started my summer with a break-up.
It’s OK, I’m not outraged. But I was. Deeply. Explosively. Outraged. I’ve been through the stages of grief, and by grace, I’ve landed on acceptance. But this wasn’t what I wanted.
We were just a few months shy of being together for three years, and then it was over. Our relationship had been strained for awhile, mostly because we were actively building our own lives in separate states, but ending what we had didn’t make sense to me. I was offended. I was humiliated. I felt destroyed.
I don’t know if God was behind what happened or if God is just good at pulling Light out of darkness. But I have enough distance now to see why ending our relationship made sense. Some days, I can even give thanks to God that it happened. We had no idea what we were doing. For both of us, it was our first real relationship. We wrestled our way into coming out together, and we learned about vulnerability and authenticity – we went through a lot. We questioned everything. And at the same time, we were falling deeper and deeper into God’s grace. We had our certainties destroyed yet discovered a gospel greater than what we’d known. The tragedy is that something we worked so hard to build, something vital to the stories of who we are and how we got there, crashed. Those three years of being together – praying, fighting, compromising, loving – all wasted. Or at least that’s how it felt.
Those years were precious. I have to remember that. Those were good years.
I wonder now if going through the crash, being crushed, is what it took for me to learn to like myself. I know. I’m a masochist. But there’s a lot of shit I’d been ignoring.
I ignore a lot of things.
I compartmentalize. I avoid conflict. I don’t listen to myself, and it’s stolen my sense of identity. Who am I? I didn’t know.
It was easier to compromise, to shut down anything unpleasant, to shunt aside negative thoughts about others. Forgive and forget. The thing is, this relationship made me feel good. Because someone adored me. This wasn’t the first time, it was just a lot less unhealthy than the others (but still, unhealthy). I didn’t like me for myself. I liked being liked. Like someone else could do the work that I couldn’t do.
It felt good.
And then it didn’t. (It only works for so long.)
At a certain point, the sobbing ended, and the break-up began to feel like waking up. I could see how I had been holding myself back, compromising in order to “keep a good thing going.” This is what freedom feels like. It feels like you’re dying, like the pain is going to kill you. Then you wake up.
I woke up. It’s nearly impossible to map out the exact process. It didn’t happen instantly. There was lots of sorrow. After several victories of “moving on,” I fell back into the mind-games of denial, spiraled right back into my insecurities. So I’d climb my way back up and out. So much climbing. Until one day it dawned on me that in spite of all my climbing, I’d fallen even deeper. Into acceptance and into the Light. It was the Light that showed me my hurt, the ways I was unhealthy, a glimpse into the goodness at my core. This was peace. That maybe I didn’t have to climb anymore.
There are still a lot of shitty things about me. I’m impatient, impulsive, and worthless when it comes to detail-oriented work. Sometimes, I ignore people. I could go on and on with a list of vices and flaws. But here’s the point. I didn’t wake up to the realization that I’m perfect. No. What I woke up to was the understanding that I am someone. To think that I am not good enough without him (or anyone) is absurd. Stupid. So dumb. How did I ever get stuck thinking that way?
Because I’m actually pretty lovely. I can see that now.
I am seeing God in me the way I’ve always been able to see God in others. I was made in the image of God.