It wasn’t something I planned on when I set out on the journey.
With a heart full of possibilities and eyes ablaze with hope, I set out on the road of life. I anticipated love, kindness, joy, fulfilled dreams. I didn’t count on the road being a little difficult to navigate, the journey a little rough-going.
I did not expect that I would get lost (a time, or two… or twenty), fall down and hurt myself, hurt others, have others hurt me.
I most certainly did not foresee that along the course of the journey, I would get so terribly lost and beaten down that I’d lose all will to continue.
I spent almost half my life in dark depression and pain. Lost, broken, and plagued by suicidal thoughts, I couldn’t see any way out of the tangled forest no matter how much I wanted to.
I was, and still am, sensitive — I’ve recently begun to see that as a gift from God, but back then, I had no idea how to navigate the journey whilst keeping my bruise-like-a-peach heart intact. The little nuances of life, and the people it brought with it, had the ability to pierce my heart to its core.
I was young, lost in a jumbled maze of pain, and I thought that I only had 2 options. The first was to allow the darkness to swallow me in, because I was just too tired to keep fighting. The second was to build a solid fortress around my heart and lock myself in it, anything to protect myself from pain.
I learned the hard way that those weren’t really options at all. They were just two sides of the same coin, each one after the other pulling me deeper down the rabbit hole.
I kept myself locked in that self-made fortress, alone but safe… or so I thought. Sure, those walls may have kept others out, but they also kept all the pain in. There was no room for my hurting heart to breathe, and no way for all the pain to leave. I was locked in with me, and in there, the pain spread like an infection.
In that fortress, the darkness grew wild like weeds in an abandoned garden. Pain was good fertilizer, and the darkness sprung up tall, tangling and spreading, crowding over me till it blocked out the sunlight.
I spent so many years wandering, lost in a prison of my own making.
I wandered for years, and by the time I turned 18, I was in a depression so deep that I despaired of ever being free again. The pain in my heart had become so acute, and so consistent, it reached an intensity that I hadn’t known the human heart was capable of containing.
I kept pushing people away. But in my heart, the little girl that was trapped there kept crying out, “Don’t give up on me! Don’t let me push you away. Give it one more try!”
I was so confused and lost, and I was desperate to be free from it all…
But salvation was near. One day, at the point where I had reached the end of myself, God showed up.
He stormed that fortress like a valiant knight, and He broke through those walls I had so carefully built up all those years.
But it wasn’t violent, or loud, or scary like I’d thought it would be. He was gentle, and kind, and so, so full of love. It was His love that did it. It melted the walls and chains that had bound me for so long, and it washed my heart clean (I literally felt a cleansing flow from heaven come down upon me, filling me, warming me… and when it was over, my heart & mind felt SO clean, cleaner than I’d felt in more than 10 years).
He spoke tenderly to me. He showed me that all those other things I had been running after, thinking that they would cure the ache in my heart, were mere shadows pointing to the real answer – Jesus. My heart was built for Him, and it would always ache apart from Him. The pain and loneliness were meant to be escorts, road signs, pointing me to Him.
I can’t say exactly where or when it happened — I think it’s pretty much a life-long journey, even though there are definitive landmarks along the way — but the Lord cleaned me up and healed my broken heart.
It took a fair bit of coaxing and a LOT of help, but I gradually allowed Him to clean up the garden of my heart. It had been left wild and untended for so long, and I had a bad habit of rebuilding those broken walls, so it took quite some time before it even began to resemble a healthy garden again.
It didn’t happen all at once, mostly because I think He knew that my heart would likely die from the pain of it. He did it gently, tenderly, revealing one wound at a time and then cleaning it out before covering it with ointment for healing.
All those years I had spent wandering in the dark, He redeemed. I saw them as wasted years, but He didn’t. His promise to me was, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten..” (Joel 2:25)
All the things I was ashamed of about me, things that I thought were worthless and ugly, He said, “I’ll take them. I’ll take those ashes, I’ll take them all.” And in return, He gave me beauty. (Isaiah 61:3)
He turned my rags of despair into a glorious gown of rejoicing. He made something beautiful out of the mess and ugliness. It’s just in His nature to do that.
Looking back, I see how every moment of my life – every pain, every hurt, every disappointment – led me into the arms of God.
Every broken sign on that broken road was pointing me straight to Him.
I didn’t see it then, but I know it now. Every pain and heartbreak served as a fog-horn calling out to me in the darkness, “You need Me. You were made for Me. I love you, I want you, and I will do everything I can to bring you to My side.”
Hosea 2:14 is the perfect picture of God’s pursuit of my heart — back then, and in every other season since — “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” The wilderness is a place of barrenness, emptiness, where we are cut off from all our natural resources… it is also the place where we find that God is all we have, and come to realize that God is all we need.
Being in wilderness is painful, scary, and just downright hard. But it is also the process that brings us to this: “Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved?” (Song of Songs 8:5)
God is a gentleman — He will not barge His way into where He is not wanted. But He is also a passionate lover — He will woo, and pursue, and will not relent until He has won our hearts.
He is doing everything He can to make you His, and He will use anything to do it. Even heartbreak.
The road may be broken, the journey a little rough-going. But friend, wherever you are on the journey, know that it is a road blessed by God and it is leading you straight to Him.