I was sure my heart was about to quit on me. The pain in my chest was like nothing I had ever felt. I couldn’t catch my shallow breath. I peered up into the rearview mirror and barely recognized the bloodshot eyes staring back at me.
Is this really happening?
Is this a nightmare?
Just keep driving, Caitlin. Just get to your sister’s apartment.
After a conversation engulfed in tears and long-avoided questions, the person I dated since I was a 15 and I had decided it was time to call it quits. Almost eight years of holding on. And now, I had to let go. It felt like freedom. But like the freedom you would feel while falling off the side of a massive cliff. Terrified, I knew the ground was coming fast. And it was going to hurt.
And man oh man. It did. I think I smashed into the ground every morning I opened my eyes for six months. I had to force myself to take about 18 deep breaths before putting my feet on the carpet. Tell me you’ve been there before.
Everything I had put my identity in vanished.
I had recently graduated from college, the college I followed him to. I was looking for a job in Dallas, because he was in Dallas. And I was currently living with my parents in the town that we met. While I knew that our time together needed to end, I had zero clue of what I was supposed to do next. Everything I had put my identity in vanished. This felt less like a break-up and more like a child having to learn how to walk again.
I fell a lot.
The following year was full of a few highs and dreadful lows. Half-hearted job interviews and going on dates that I had no business going on resulted in my heart hurting even worse, and my insecurity doubled in size. I was carrying around secrets and making really dumb decisions. I was drinking heavily on the weekends, hoping it would bring back my social personality.
While I fabricated a smile for mostly everyone, I was in a very lonely place. I was hurting. After many failed attempts at doing life on my own, I finally started grasping for God in desperate, honest prayers. And frankly, it seemed pretty silent on His end for a while.
* * *
“I called you because I know you’ve been here before.”
Five years later I got a call from a friend. Her long-term relationship had ended, she was searching for a job, and I could tell from the sound in her voice that she was hurting. As I listened to her talk, my stomach began to turn. I could almost feel the anxiety creeping back up inside me. In more words or less she said,
“I called you because I know you’ve been here before.”
My response was probably a little odd:
“You’re right. And you know what? I believe you’re going to look back on this season and be extremely thankful for it. That ended up being a very sweet time in my life.”
I’m not sure if that was the best thing for me to say at the time. It may have sounded a little too “everything-happens-for-a-reason” like. I totally get it; it’s incredibly hard to see the silver lining when you’re in the storm. I tried giving her a few practical things that pulled me out of the trenches.
After praying with her and saying goodbye, I sat in my bedroom in silence. I looked at the bed that I now share with my husband. I thought about my job with I Am Second, and how completely different my life looks compared to five years ago.
Before walking out of the room to finish dinner with Ryan, I looked back at our bed and said, “Thank you, Jesus, for that awfully lonely, outrageously confusing, beautifully sweet season.”
If you’re in middle of pain, and this might sound strange, but I kind of envy you. Don’t get me wrong; I am very thankful for my life right now. Though, there is something so tragically lovely about having the rug ripped out from underneath your feet.
You know why? Because you are no longer depending on yourself for strength. You can’t! You have none!
The things that often distracted me from what really matters finally shrank away. I craved concrete truth. I yearned for real, lasting comfort, and I desperately dug through the bible looking for answers.
It was five years ago when I finally understood what it meant to totally depend on God. I stopped looking to other people or things to tell me who I was or what I was worth, that never worked out well. And I certainly wasn’t looking to myself, as I was painfully aware of how much I sucked at being a “good person.”
I learned that inescapable heartache has the ability to bring up dark memories and ugly truths.
I learned that inescapable heartache has the ability to bring up dark memories and ugly truths. It was during that challenging season that I finally faced and was rid of struggles and insecurities that followed me since I was little girl. I told friends and family things that I had never voiced out loud, and I discovered the importance of someone knowing literally everything about you.
So, I can firmly say that I am eternally grateful for that season.
Let me say this: What I experienced five years ago was temporary and I know that some of you are fighting through something that may not seem so temporary. You may be dealing with it for the rest of your life. However, that does not exclude you from your heart being changed for the better. Don’t let your pain steal your life; allow it to humble you, to inform you, and to deepen your sympathy for others.
Don’t let your pain steal your life; allow it to humble you, to inform you, and to deepen your sympathy for others.
I am confident that there will be more pain to come in my life. Though, I won’t be surprised by it because Jesus said that we would always have trouble in this world. But you know what? You never have to face it alone.
C.S. Lewis explains this well, “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
I am not telling you that you shouldn’t be sad in your pain. In fact, let all your emotions flood through your soul. But use this time to be painfully honest with yourself, embarrassingly honest with your friends and family, and desperately honest with a God who is waiting to listen. It will be worth it.
You have an incredible opportunity to start over.