What was the beauty in the aftermath of that heartbreak?
Those tempered moments in the passenger seat of Beth’s Jeep Grand Cherokee, fondly known as “The Mud Bullet”, revealing slight vulnerabilities and talking about every little thing that hour before I had to go to basketball practice. It was the solidification of a best friendship that would follow me for years to come. A new birth out of the death that proceeded it.
Learning how strong I could be. Even after I had cried until I thought I was going to vomit for so many days in a row. But I came through it - weathered and worn, but strong all the same.
This vague awareness that God was loyally there through all of it.
The thing about the moments that seem to be of the darkest kind of despair is that it makes the light moments that follow seem even brighter than they would’ve otherwise. So every good memory now stands out more when compared against that heartache. Sure, it felt like I was steadily climbing out of a deep hole at the time, but it just made those glimpses of light all the more meaningful, something I could cling onto because they reminded me that there was still good in the midst of the tragic, and that all wasn’t lost.
And though Jason Mraz’s “Tonight Not Again” started off as an anthem to my despair, it became a catalyst to my hope, empowering me with a truth I clung onto so tightly, one that I actually believed was my reality.
“It’s when you cry just a little, but you laugh in the middle that you’ve made it.”
And even though I still felt sad, and there were still nights where I lied in bed as a few tears dropped onto my pillow, there were moments where I began to smile more, and I found myself genuinely laughing - so hard and full that I felt it reverberating deeply in my stomach long after it had faded away. That specially satisfying sort of laughter because it was so fresh after not having laughed for so long.
Despite it all, I was still capable of real laughter.
And I realize, more so retrospectively than anything (though I even feel a testament to it as I think back on those memories), that there is such beauty in the recovery. To watch what grows and comes out of the despair is something not quite matched by anything else.
They say we’re like Jesus in those moments where we love and obey and serve in all the right ways.
But maybe we’re really like Jesus in those moments where we rise through the disaster into something more beautiful than we were before, a kind of beauty and strength that we never could’ve been without the disaster.
And maybe the summation of life’s glory isn’t in those moments where we’ve managed to avoid heartbreak, but rather what we happen to become as we rise beyond the heartbreak.
And with each dip in the road, we come out okay again.
I can do life when I think about it like that.
If I could do it once, I can do it again. And again. And again. And again.
I was taught that those who committed suicide earned themselves an automatic ticket to hell. It didn’t matter if they had been “saved” before, because the act of suicide left them with a burden of unforgiven sin that automatically banished them to eternal damnation. Not to mention that challenge that someone who’d be driven to commit suicide wasn’t really “saved” to begin with - who could know God yet still want to end their life, after all?
Great theology to have in your arsenal before you’re even a teenager, let me tell you.
I used to believe it. And honestly, I don’t know what that says about me as a person to have been able to swallow that easily. I mean, I was a kid - even if I still held some semblance of that ideology at 20, I was still practically a kid. Indoctrinated by a borrowed theology that I was never allowed to question since I was old enough to remotely comprehend things - of course it was easy to swallow.
Many people don’t believe in God. I do - unashamedly. I’m too aware and have experienced too much not to, and the beautiful thing about personal experience is that no one can invalidate because they are not me. Some people believe in God but don’t believe you can actually know God. I know I can know God, because knowing Him is the only thing that keeps my belief. There are honestly moments where I question everything, yet I cannot shake off that conviction of God because I’ve known and experienced Him so evidently that it’s nothing but truth for me.
With that knowledge and experience comes love. When you know someone, you become deeply acquainted with their character. Who they are. And I honestly have no interest in what other people say God is and or what He’s like - a pastor, church patrons, whoever based on their personal perception of the Bible shaped highly (more than they’ll ever admit) by their environment…I don’t care for that. The Bible, though a supplement that I will not discredit, is not a prerequisite to knowing who God is or how He’s like. You touch Him, you see Him, you talk to Him, you listen to Him, you feel him in your darkest moments of despair when you feel utterly alone but then unspoken hope coming from seemingly nowhere starts to creep slowly into your veins until it encompasses you fully to the point that though seconds ago, you were at your rope’s end, suddenly almost against your will, you can’t help but believe in absolute hope.
That’s how I know God. It’s love. Pure and constant, sympathetic and devoted, full of grace and hope - overflowing that I can’t grasp it between my hands to try to convey its summation through tepid words on a blog’s page.
I say all of this, because the God I’ve come to know, who I believe in, the lifeline who gives me the only guarantee that I can put all my certainty in (which means so much in a world where people will discard you in an instance - but those insecurities are for a different post at a different time) would not damn someone who committed suicide to hell.
The God who denied his deity to reduce himself to human form in order to partake with us in our paltry human condition and the immense suffering that categorizes it, which unified us with Him (a GOD unified with human!), bred the utmost sympathy and understanding between the two beings and redeemed us from such suffering would not look upon the most vulnerable of humans - the one who has been battered, torn apart, shattered and oppressed by the darkness of this world to the point where she/he has lost all hope and feels so alone - and turn His back on her or him. I cannot imagine the kind of love that would breed such a reaction. And if that’s love, then I want nothing of it.
The beautiful purity and utmost selfless love of the Christ I’ve found myself so gratefully acquainted with, who has always stood in solace with the least of these, who embodies hope and redemption and renewal would have nothing but understanding and sympathy for the person driven to the point of taking their own life, I am sure of it. If it breaks my heart - the heart of an imperfect, self-involved human - then how would it not shatter His?
How could His immediate reaction, upon being met with the recently departed soul of someone who had just committed suicide not be, “Here I am. I love you. I’m for you. You can take solace in me away from the demons of the world you were trying to escape”? Is that not what true love would require? To do whatever He could to comfort the one who knew not enough hope and thus ended their life? As opposed to carelessly casting them to an even darker place of despair than the one they’d just left?
It’s ironic, because I know those who don’t necessarily believe in God probably find this all both foolish and idealistic, but likewise, I know many Christians - particularly those who are more “traditional” or fundamentalist - will think the same. And honestly, I don’t care, because this is what I idealistically believe in these gutting moments - that there is still hope for those who have lost all of their hope, that there is love still available for those who have felt so utterly unloved.
And I don’t have time to skim through my Bible, pulling out isolated, probably out-of-context proof texts to supplement my beliefs right now because this isn’t academic or even really theological - this is a human moment where everything within me is fighting to connect with humanity around me out of genuine love. And honestly, all of my evidence is overflowing from the knowledge of the character of the God that I truly believe I have become more and more deeply personally acquainted with over the years of my life. How I’ve experienced Him has deeply shaped my perspective of who He is and what He does, and having gotten to touch this love, I can’t imagine such love doing certain things.
I imagine that people commit suicide, searching for something that they don’t believe the world can give them. Why wouldn’t a God of love, who a lot of us are taught to believe has everything we need, when presented with such an individual, not say, “Here - I have all that you are looking for?”
Am I supposed to sit here, okay with the idea that God would just damn them? Regardless of if it’s true or not, am I not supposed to wrestle with it, be torn up by it? Attempt to be weakly assuaged by arguments of how free will supposedly trumps love or that the idea of a second chance only applies to life on Earth?
I’m not okay with that. Because that’s now how I’ve come to know love. And I’ve come to know love through God. And I don’t believe that your sister, brother, father, mother, cousin, friend, beloved actor who committed suicide is in hell. I just don’t.
If that makes me theologically unsound - I don’t care (though I will admit that this blog post is only a very slight sliver of the research, thought, prayer, Biblical reading, meditation, etc I’ve put into this and similar subjects so I may be unsound, but I’m not uneducated). If it makes me a heretic, I don’t care. And if it makes me not a Christian by the majority’s definition, then I definitely don’t care because to be honest, I don’t want to live up to a lot of people’s definition of Christian, anyway.
I don’t care what anyone labels me as. I just know I believe in love and hope and redemption and that every soul will get to taste that, one way or another. And it’s maybe the souls that were most tortured on this earth that deserve to taste it the most.
Love suffers long. And love never fails.
And it’s stupid that I have to defile my blog post with this disclaimer at the very end (and based on previous experience, I know people may ignore this anyway), but I don’t wish to debate or discuss the nuances of theology or why you think I’m wrong or engage in a conversation where your secret motive is to prove yourself right in regards to this. This is my mind and soul on display, pushed out there by the emotional whirlwind I found myself caught up in tonight as I started to think of the nature of suicide and those who have committed it. Take my expression as it is, but please just let it be.
Though I will say there’s this whole ideology of Judas that this subject reminds me of and the theology involved with him, and that I will discuss with you because that’s just hella interesting and intriguing, but also pulls on my human heartstrings deeply as I think about the fate of troubled souls.
June 28th will always be two things for me:
1) a month before my birthday and
2) my parents’ wedding anniversary.
My parents have been divorced for five years.
Their last wedding anniversary before they got separated (which was eight years ago), when they went out to dinner, I invited the girl I liked over to watch home videos that I had taken during our last day of school with me. I didn’t tell my mom that she was coming over, and when she found out, she got mad.
No, we weren’t dating. This girl didn’t even know I liked her (though, okay, there was always this weird energy and chemistry between us, but whatever), but my mom could just sense something and immediately disliked my friend because of it. Also, I think my mom thought there was more happening than was actually going on and thus didn’t want us home alone and unsupervised.
Just so you know, nothing at all happened. I got all warm every time she giggled and smiled at me, and I lived for those brief moments where our arms would brush together, but that was it.
I remember that same summer, I went to take my driver’s license test, and I failed because I didn’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign (gah, y’all at the DMV are so nitpicky!). Naturally, I was devastated, and my mom left me at home as she went to watch my brother play basketball as I cried and felt like shit. Because when you’re sixteen in upper middle class suburbia, a failed driver’s test is what warrants tears (if I could console my formerly teen self, I’d tell her that she won’t be as big of a fan of driving when she’s stuck in Los Angeles traffic for 2 hours, trying to travel just 15 miles).
Little known fact: I used to be terrified of thunderstorms. Slightly more known fact: it literally thunderstorms every day during the summer in North Carolina. That day wasn’t an exception, and as I was talking to aforementioned girl I liked on AIM, starting to maybe feel a little better about life, a storm began to rage. So bad that it shut off our power without warning.
I remember grabbing my cell phone, which was barely getting any service, and making camp in our pantry as I called my mom. And then I got another call: from that girl. Calling to make sure that I was okay because our conversation ended abruptly when the power went out, and she knew a storm was brewing.
And I swear, as tumultuous and painful as our friendship ended up being over those several months before it completely crumbled apart in the Fall, as inconsistently as she acted towards me to the point where she often straight up took advantage of and used me without giving me my due credit, in concentrated moments like what happened that afternoon, I swear no one’s shown such isolated displays of personal care for me as she used to during the year and a half that we were close friends. Overall, the friendship ended up being pretty shitty, but she would have these few moments, and those few moments were spectacular.
I ended up confessing to her that I was scared, and at that age, she was the only one who could even remotely get a piece of vulnerability out of me (and even then, it was like twice, maybe thrice), and I felt my whole day turn around because she talked to me on the phone as I hid in my food pantry and felt like she actually legitimately cared about me, was invested in me.
I mean, I know she did care. It’s just that the circumstances that surround the confusion and insecurities of adolescence paired with our highly conservative background wasn’t exactly going to allow us to have an ending where we kissed in the sunset, you know?
Just like my parents’ happy ending was shattered. When you’re fourteen, the possibilities and expectations for the future are endless. You’re hopeful, not yet jaded, and you honestly expect everything is going to be absolute smooth sailing for the rest of your life, because you’re really smart, your dad’s a doctor, and you’ve had an easy, privileged life so far.
It doesn’t even take three years for that to start to shatter. You except your parents to be together forever - they’ve been married for twenty years, so why not? But then that ends. You have this whole life planned out for yourself that involves marrying a gorgeous Italian man (or mmm, maybe Brazilian) when you’re in your 20’s, but then you haven’t even made it past sixteen yet and you’re absolutely freaked out because you’re pretty sure you’re falling in love, and it’s with a girl…
And as your parents’ relationship is falling apart and your dad is coming home at late hours, and you’re crying yourself to sleep and then crying when you wake up, not only are the ideal images of what your life is supposed to be breaking down, but so is the most important friendship you’ve had up to that point as your heart is breaking, and you’re losing this girl - not in the form of unrequited love, but man, high school is a cruel war field that decays and changes people, and you go from cherishing those special moments with her that you’ve never had with anyone else to not having her at all.
And so you haven’t even made it out of high school yet, and life seems to be breaking apart all around you.
But then…it starts to build up again. And you find new dreams and have different expectations, which really boils down to accepting whatever in life may come your way. You stop praying for your parents to get back together, because you accept that this is the way it’s going to be and maybe in some ways - despite all the damage it has caused - it’s now actually better this way. You make new friends to replace the ones who have fallen away, and wow, they’re so much better. You even find someone else who’s a certain kind of special to you (she leaves, too, but hey - that’s life).
You accept that you’re going to be making two stops for holidays for the rest of your life and understand that you’re not going to marry that Italian man, but there’s this part-Italian lady that you’ve been having your eyes on for awhile, and your friends have learned to refer to her as your future wife without you even telling them to (“Lovato” is a Italian surname, folks; also happens to be my future surname).
And now it’s eight years after the last time my parents celebrated a wedding anniversary, and I’m subtly realizing that I’m the best version of myself that I’ve ever been, that my life is currently the best it’s ever been, and boy is that an amazing feeling. Sometimes it feels like you’re eternally stuck in the deepest valley, and you’re never going to get out, but then one day you realize that you’ve made it to the top of the mountain, and you’ve been there for awhile, actually.
Life’s not perfect, of course, and I don’t expect that it ever will be. But I’m realizing now that every moment of heartache, of brokenness, of tribulation, of shattered dreams and expectations were never in vain and certainly were never the end of the story. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not so grateful that I’m no longer 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, but likewise I respect those years because they allowed me to be transformed into the person I am now. The person who is, of course, still growing and learning and still hasn’t completely made it through the storm.
But the rain’s certainly let up a great deal. And even if another storm were to hit, I’m no longer afraid of it. Because if there’s any testimony that life bears, it’s that I will survive through the storm, and there is restoration for all the damage caused by the wind. In fact, it only leads to something greater.
And I know that my life and its trajectory is totally saturated in the hands of God; it is so apparent to me, and I hold tightly to that knowledge in comfort, knowing that He’ll keep lifting me higher and higher.
And there are still moments, of course, full of disappointment that are certainly hard to walk through, but as my mind travels to back to each June 28th of every year I’ve gone through, when it comes to the overall picture, well -
I’ve got to admit it’s getting better. A little better all the time.
So today is sort of a bittersweet day. But it’s also a very good day.
And in exactly a month, I will embark on the journey of officially being in my mid-20’s, and I’m looking forward to what another year brings. Because I know no matter what, God’s got a hold of all of this, and things will turn out just fine in the end. It’s ended up that way so far, after all.
You know, sometimes you have plans.
Like saving enough money to fly out East for two weeks during the summer, so you can road trip from North Carolina to Tennessee to volunteer at the Bonnaroo Music Festival solely so you can fulfill your dream of seeing Paul McCartney perform live.
Then sometimes those plans don’t pan out.
But then, randomly, without planning for it, several months later, you end up seeing Paul McCartney perform live for free in your city - the self-proclaimed city of dreams - and you suddenly you don’t care at all that those other plans never panned out.
Or you keep missing Demi Lovato concerts, which shouldn’t be a big deal because you have seen her five times, after all, but back in 2009, you vowed you’d see her perform every time she came to whatever city you lived it, and you’d been making good on that for four years. But then 2013, and you just can’t seen to make it happen, and it’s a little upsetting on principal because you’ve her every single year since you became a fan, and time’s running out to keep up that yearly trend.
But at the very end of the year, you end up meeting her and not in that predictable, cliche “meet ‘n greet” way that everyone around you was meeting her, but a legitimate interaction where you bantered and made her laugh - not a polite titter, but her genuine, loud, goofy trademark laugh and okay, so you didn’t get to see her in concert that yet, but actually meeting her was a million times better.
I know it’s cliche, and I know it’s been said a million times, but sometimes things don’t work out how you want then, when you want them, but then with a little bit of patience and time, you get what you wanted after all - sometimes in a much better manifestation than you previously anticipated. Disappointments are temporary, and perhaps I can only really speak from the perspective of my own life and personal experiences, but things come through eventually.
It’s a nice hope to hold on, too. And I know there’s a growing unpopularity with the concept of a inter-personal God involved intimately in existence of humanity, and I know my anecdotes about meaningful celebrity encounters will convince no unbeliever - and that’s not my intent at all, but I just know so evidently that there’s someone much greater than all of us this, watching out for me in simple and huge things, and it’s a knowledge that allows me to breathe a lot easier throughout my days and not hold on to my plans so tightly.
Because things will work out, you know? I’m pretty sure of it. You deal with the downs until the ups come around.
I’m always a little surprised when someone who isn’t one of my best friends willingly reaches out to start a conversation with me with no ulterior motive (like asking a favor, needing a question answered, etc). I don’t know what that says about my self-perception.
jk I totally know. Sometimes I think intentional social interaction makes me so nervous because I’ve been made to believe that I’m not worthy of it, and people are going to realize sooner or later that they don’t really want to talk to me.
Or that I’m scared I’m gonna fuck it up. There’s so much pressure. I’ve never been good with pressure. Pressure turns my best into a mess. And yes, I kind of did mean to rhyme that.
I’m gonna get better at this, though. I know I will. I already have, and I can keep on. There’s this power that’s inside of me that compensates for all of my weaknesses. And is changing me gradually, but genuinely - picking away the fear, the hurt, the vulnerability and replacing it with peace, comfort, wholeness, healing.
I believe in that power. I’ve seen that power at work, and I know what that power is capable of. What I’ve failed to realize before is that failure does not discount everything; a little hiccup doesn’t have to equate to complete relapse.
And all of this is a process. Nothing happens over night or over a few nights, but many, many nights. We just have to push through the ups and the downs with the ultimate goal in mind, knowing that it’s coming if we don’t lose hope.
So I won’t always be so alone. Even in the midst of doubts, I have to force myself to have faith in that, trusting in something so much bigger than me and the nature of He who is so much bigger than me. Knowing that this all isn’t just for myself, but fits into a much larger picture that will contribute to all things experiencing this renewing change away.
I believe in that. And if hope is synonymous with foolish, then I’d rather be ignorantly blissed because at least I smile and feel peace and comfort. At least I have purpose and direction, and I’d rather not live any other way than that.
I don’t think I’m a fool, though.
Some of us are given a harder lot in life than others.
Whether it’s being an uber minority, having extremely meager finances from the get-go. Whatever.
I’ve come to see these uncontrollable pre-dispositions not as burdens, but as blessings.
God knew we could handle this.
He says, “Even with everything you feel like has been placed on your shoulders, you’re gonna get by just fine. All that I’ve given you - whether you perceive it as good or bad - will be undoubtedly be used for good, if you just trust Me.”
I haven’t been given a condemnation or a handicap. I’ve been given a mission.
So I feel blessed for the lot that God’s given me. Because He knew I’d be able to handle it. And He’s going to use every single part of me for His glory. It might be rough at times - rougher than some others have it - but at the end, there’s so much glory that all the troubles will ultimately be left forgotten.
How can I judge when I’m the worst?
Also. Vanity. Every single thing is vanity outside of Christ and what is influenced by Him.
Lastly, I have an attitude problem today. I’ve become aware that it’s foolish to ignore my folly. I have a bad attitude today. It’s also foolish to dismiss folly. So it’s not good that I have a bad attitude. So praying through said bad attitude and hopefully it’s a good one tomorrow.
And trying not to willfully wallow in my disgruntlement.
I lied - that wasn’t lastly. My pride is astronomical sometimes. No wonder God has to completely level me into absolute humility routinely. So much self-focus or rather, a desire to be known (for my better qualities to be known). It’s the worst because I don’t even need to be affirmed. I just want people to know how good I am at certain things.
Stupidity because what do I have to do with anything good that I have? Talents, intuitions, knowledge - whatever I have was given to me for some reason. I didn’t ask, I didn’t earn it; God just blessed me out of grace.
Yet I want people to think I’m so good for these things, as if I can rightfully take credit for it?
Sometimes I’m not like that. In the moment I wrote that, though, I was. It’s a constant battle against pride here. But the Holy Spirit within me will ultimately prevail, I do have faith in that.
It’s so hopeful, right? All the verses about sanctification, completion. That God guarantees that He will make us completely holy. There will be heaven for eternity, and I will finally be perfect. Not to my glory. Not for means of comparison. But all to God’s glory and purpose. And best of all, it means I can really be with Him, in His presence forever.
All this will end someday, thankfully. And then real life will begin.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
"The Lord is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in Him."
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
to the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It’s amazing - the second I get myself in check with my relationship with God, realize that I’d been slipping and letting external matters get me down, and start to straighten it all out, things really start to turn around. God is so faithful. If you follow Him wholeheartedly, He will definitely come through, every single time. The difference in my feelings, the resurgence of hope I’ve been feeling - I know it’s nothing less than Him.
Amazing what really putting your hope in Him and striving for His will will do for your life. And the changes are almost instantaneous - it’s amazing. My state of mind between now and last week - so different. God’s got this. I am soo excited for the future and what He has in store for my life!