I would love to come back to this page after all of these weeks and report a list of the wonderful things that have happened in 2016 so far. I would share the goals that I’ve reached, and the moments that I’ve chosen to stay instead of walking away. I could paint you a picture of all of the ways that I’ve lived so committed in 2016, but I won’t. I can’t.
Don’t get me wrong, there certainly have been moments and stories worth celebrating, and I could easily embellish them and leave you with a beautiful picture of my life this year. I could tell you about the adventures I’ve been on. I could tell you about the ways that I’m learning to love better and more honestly. After reading the words you might even credit me as someone worth following or looking up to. You might like me a little bit better. But that’s just it. You would like me in the same way you like a picture you’ve seen while scrolling on Instagram, forgetting that the whole thing is filtered and cropped and far from the truth. The picture I could paint might be pretty but it wouldn’t be real. It wouldn’t be honest.
You see, I can promise you so little on this page.I can’t promise that you’ll love everything you read. I can’t promise that I’ll always be right (in fact, it’s safe to say now that I will be wrong). I can’t tell you how long I’ll be writing or how often or whether or not you’ll gain anything at all from these words.
I can promise you only one thing: I’m going to try my very best to be honest with you in this space. No filtered words. No pretty pictures. Just the truth.
Here’s the truth: this year didn’t get off to the best start.
I made mistakes. I watched friendships fall apart. I cried a lot. My priorities got mixed up and somewhere along the shuffle of being busy, my heart stopped beating. Not in the physical sense, but in the sense that it stopped beating for the things that I love. I can’t explain this feeling, but my heart stopped caring. Gradually, without notice or warning, apathy consumed me. Somehow I had become the Tin Man, wondering why I couldn’t feel a thing.
That’s the thing I’m learning about heart change. It rarely happens overnight, and most often we don’t even realize it’s happening until we stop for a moment to look back. Every day we make choices; which voices we choose to listen to and the ways in which we spend our time. Day-to-day, these choices seem insignificant and petty, but slowly they etch away at our hearts.Just like water against a rock, it’s not the strength but the frequency that shapes us. It’s the every day.
Slowly my heart had changed its shape. All love became forced and I couldn’t understand why. This frustrated me to no end because my heart is such a big part of who I am. I wanted to love so badly but my desires didn’t match up. With everything in me I just wanted to care without pretending and trying hard and talking myself up to it. I wanted to listen for the sake of hearing, and look for the sake of seeing – not because I felt like I had to.
I remember the night that I first recognized this shift in my heart. It was a month ago today. I sat myself in the back of a crowded room full of friends, wanting only to be alone. – Isn’t it funny how we tend to push people away in the times when we need them to hold us tighter? I might be an expert at trying to face these things on my own before realizing that I can’t. – I eventually couldn’t even stand beside anybody so I retreated to a different room and I just wept. I couldn’t tell you why, exactly, but I felt far from myself and far from God that night. I think this was the moment that I first caught a glimpse at the footprints in the sand marking how far this way I had wandered.
The week that followed became a battle. I wanted my heart back and I had to fight to get it. Not because somebody had taken it, but because in haste I left it behind in my chase after other things.
I ended up taking a step back that week in order to retrace my footprints; I took a step back from the things that required me to engage my heart; the things that my heart were no longer beating for. Because love isn’t love at all if it’s only pretending. Half-hearted love is as sorry as standing in the basket of a hot air balloon without ever actually leaving the ground. Without heat, the basket won’t take you anywhere; it won’t give you a clearer view.
That’s what love does, doesn’t it? It removes barriers. It lifts you up so you can see the sunrise past the treeline.
Now, I don’t know what your Sick Day Routine looks like, but when I’m sick I like to lie on the couch, drink peppermint tea and binge-watch Friends. I drink lots of OJ. I don’t change out of my Pajamas. I sleep, a lot. When I’m sick, I know what my body needs to get better.
We take such good care of our bodies when they’re not well, so why do we have a hard time doing the same for our hearts? Why do we fake love when our hearts become unhealthy instead of getting down to the root of the problem and seeking an antidote? It isn’t normal to take a sick day for our soul, but I would even argue that our soul is of far greater importance than our flesh. Everything we say, everything we do is just an overflow of our internal health.
I honestly didn’t take my “soul sick day” soon enough. I had wasted time giving out half-hearted love for months, hoping that eventually my heart would just magically start beating again. It doesn’t work that way. Time can certainly heal, but sometimes you need to stop right in your tracks and retrace your steps. Sometimes you need to be vulnerable and honest with a friend about how you’re actually doing. Sometimes you just need to pray, to get down on your knees and utter the words “I think I’ve been trying to do this thing alone again. I need You.”
It’s okay to take a step back. Life will continue. You don’t keep this whole thing in orbit, you never have. You aren’t a hero. And if you’re giving out half-hearted love because you’re afraid that taking a step back will make everything collapse, remember what half-hearted love feels like. It doesn’t take you anywhere. It doesn’t give you clearer vision. Only real, sincere love has the power to do that, and that stuff can’t be forced or faked. It only comes from a healthy heart.
So whatever your heart remedies are, I challenge you to practice them. Work them into your routine. Just like exercising and eating well, our hearts require a healthy and balanced diet. We can’t neglect our hearts and expect that they’ll be able to do this loving thing long-term. The truth is, love can be hard work. Staying in the mess with a friend who wants to give up is hard work. Being kind to someone who makes you feel small is hard work. But let me tell you, love is worth the fight. If anything at all is worth your hardest fight in this life, it’s love – real, sincere, God-given love.
I don’t know about you, but I want my life to be a marathon of love, not just a sprint. I dont’ want to run hard for a few years only to become tired and dejected because I didn’t take care of my heart. Just like an injury, burnout is preventable.
So whatever it is that your heart needs, do it regularly.
Pray, write poems, sing songs, do less, speak honestly, retrace your steps.