Tag Archives: heartbreak

triggersingrief

Becoming Aware of Triggers in Grief

For the grieving person who has lost someone (to death or other reasons), there is a lot of unknown in the grieving process. For a while, everything makes you want to cry or react in anger. As the months progress, though, you probably aren’t crying every day. Oftentimes, there are triggers that set off grief. These triggers can come at unexpected moments, probably because there are so much emotion and memories involved.

Some triggers for grief seem obvious (holidays, birthdays, anniversaries). Yet some are not so obvious.

Let me take a moment to share some triggers I’ve experienced as I’ve process the alleged murder of my Kindred Spirit, *Becca.

 

***

1. One of the strangest triggers is the way I react to movies and TV shows. America really likes crime shows. I couldn’t stomach them for months after Becca was allegedly murdered. I’d get so angry at the way entertainment so lightly passes over the victims who are usually murdered in brutal ways and everything is easily settled in an hour of television. Crime solved, detective is victorious, everyone goes on with their lives! Tell that to a victim’s family, who have to deal with the crime the rest of their lives. Even putting someone behind bars doesn’t solve the pain of the loss. I still don’t like crime shows or movies, and I try to avoid them. I can now be more okay watching them, but I still sometimes react in startling ways to entertainment that involves flippant violence or murder. I sometimes have to walk away from the TV set if my roommates are watching something that triggers memories. Once you’ve had something tragic happen to you, murder, crimes, and tragedy really isn’t entertaining anymore.

2. Another thing that is a trigger for me is weddings. I know this is weird, but the last time I saw my friend alive was at her wedding. It was a horrible wedding. I already could sense something was really wrong, but hadn’t yet put the clues together. She was allegedly murdered by a guy who was in the wedding party two short months later (at the alleged order of her husband). I went to a wedding about a year after Becca had died, and I was having flashbacks the entire time about Becca’s wedding. It’s not something I could control, and I tried very hard to enjoy my time at that wedding. Still, it was really hard.
The last eye contact I ever made with my best friend was when she tossed the bouquet at her wedding, and I caught it. I knew she’d throw it too hard, and it’d end up in the back. So I stayed in the back and got the bouquet. She looked at me, and I looked at her. One last true look. Just a few days ago, I saw a picture on Facebook of a bouquet toss, and I began to feel so much pain in the pit of my stomach. It took me a while to figure out why I was feeling such things about a simple picture that should evoke joy. And then I remembered…

3. Christmas break is another thing that really triggers pain. It’s not so much other holidays, but Christmas is hard. Becca wasn’t family, but she was like an older sister and mentor to me. We grew up in high school together, and when we both left for college, Christmas was most usually a time we got to see each other when we were both home. I made a concerted effort to see her often during the holidays. I was even planning a visit to see her again in December 2013, but she was murdered that October. It’s painful for me to know that I will never see her again during Christmas. Not just during Christmas break, but any time.

4. When I need prayer, it’s a trigger. When I need advice, it’s a trigger. When I need someone to look up to, it’s a trigger.  When I want to feel completely understood, it’s a trigger. Becca was one of the most influential friendships/almost-sister/Kindred Spirits I’ll ever have. There are often times when I would’ve called her for advice and pour out my heart to her, knowing she’d be there for me and understand completely. We were Kindred Spirits, made of the same stuff, and we could just look at each other sometimes and know things. I don’t have another friend quite like her in my life. I’m not sure I’ll ever have one again. The hole in my heart will always be there.

5. Triggers happen in small ways every day of every month of every year. Sometimes, when I go through my phone book to choose whom to send texts to, I will still almost instinctively click on her name. I haven’t deleted her number yet. I just can’t. For a moment, I will pause and look at her name, and it will hit me like a bullet in my chest that I can’t ever send her a text or a phone call again. That no one will ever understand me like she did.

***

Triggers, my friends, happen often in grief. I write this simply to help others think about things that might trigger grief for themselves. I also write this to help those who know people who are grieving. To help them understand why a griever reacts strangely sometimes to seemingly unrelated events.

ADVICE FOR the NON-GRIEVER: When someone loses someone they loved, every part of their life is forever changed, altered, warped. Whether it’s simple things like sending out a text or big things like holiday plans, it’s something they have to live with the rest of their lives. Sometimes, their emotions seem to make little sense–especially after time has passed–but dig a little deeper, and it usually will make sense. Remember that when you interact with a griever.

ADVICE FOR THE GRIEVER: It takes time to figure out what could be triggers for you personally as you grieve, and to give yourself space and time to process these triggers when they happen. Take care of yourself and learn to become more self-aware. When you feel pain unexpectedly, try to stop and think and figure out why. Go back to the memories. Seek counseling if you need to. It will help you heal and process. If you don’t face the triggers, they will eat away at you unawares and may effect your life and relationships in negative ways.

So think about it.

What are your triggers?

*Name changed for privacy.

grief1

PDF of 15 Things I Wish I’d Known About Grief!

I’ve had a lot of people contact me and ask if they can use this piece and pass it out, etc. I was going to design a PDF within the next week or so. Honestly, I’ve been so overwhelmed by the response to my blog over the last few days, and I’m just tired (I’m still dealing with my own grief), so even making one was making me more overwhelmed. But I wanted to do it, because I know it is needed. It was just going to take a little while…

Today, I was emailed by a man who’d already designed a piece that people can print off. This PDF looks amazing. I was going to design something almost exactly like it. I really just see God in this, because this is such a blessing. I’m just so happy to pass this onto anyone who needs it TODAY. May it help many, many people.

So thanks, John Nyborg. I really am so grateful for this.

You can download the PDF here.

Edit 11-29-13: I have compiled many of the comments into a post entitled “Advice & Thoughts on Grief.” Read it here.

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tower

The Girl, The Heart, & The Tower (A Poem)

I’m sharing one final poem to help wrap up my series on “Boys, The Good & The Bad.”

In college, I began writing longer poems that were more narrative in nature. I have several written at various time for various reasons. It was a way to express myself in a free-running manner while still telling a story of some sort.

This is one I wrote towards the end of my senior year at college (read Part III of my series). This was a painful year, a year I began to shut down emotionally, really deal with some intense stuff, etc. So I wrote this poem as I tried to process my own heartbreak, my own story of healing and renewal.

I didn’t finish this poem until this summer, though. So it’s a poem that has spanned several years.

It’s a story. A fairy tale. A tale of healing and redemption.

Enjoy.

(I also apologize for some of the formatting in this. WordPress is silly, and so it looked better in Word. Oh well).

tower

The Girl, The Heart, & The Tower

Once Upon A Time,

there was girl who did not know what love was.

To her, love was what was portrayed in magazines and movies:

You gave your whole heart, your worth, your happiness

to a person.

One person.

And life was supposed to be lived happily ever after.

Then she grew a little.

And she fell in love with a boy.

Oh, how she loved him!

She took her heart completely out of her chest

and gave it all to this boy.

Her whole heart, her worth, her happiness

to that one person.

Because that is what love is, right?

But the boy she fell in love with did not return her affections.

He took her heart,

—her heart that was now completely out of her chest,

throbbing with hope and eagerness to love and be loved—

and he abused it.

He took her heart and crushed it,

pressing and beating and pounding it into a bruised mess.

And then he threw it on the ground,

and he left.

He walked away,

leaving her heart on the sidewalk,

alone and helpless,

still bleeding from all those wounds.

The girl had never known that so much pain could exist.

She looked with shock at her heart lying there

on the pavement.

And she knew that life would never, ever be the same.

The aching hole in her chest began to throb and throb.

Desperately, she tried to put her heart back into her chest,

but she couldn’t do it!

Try as she might, it was too heavy now with sorrow

and she couldn’t even lift it.

And it was so tender now.

It hurt so badly because of the bruises, the wounds,

It was a mess of emotions and feelings

Lying on the pavement helplessly.

The girl didn’t know what to do.

So she started to cry.

She just sat on the pavement by her heart,

and she cried often when no one was around.

She felt so alone and helpless.

After a while, though, she knew she must get up and try and fix it.

She was tired of lying there like victim.

But she still couldn’t repair it on her own.

It was too big of a task.

“Will someone please help me repair this heart?” she asked.

“I can’t do it on my own!”

 ***

Other boys came.

They would handle her heart,

and they would throw it again on the sidewalk.

And the mess grew larger and larger.

Some took one look at her and ran.

Others stayed for a while,

admiring her from a distance,

but once they realized she was asking them to truly help,

to come alongside her and repair the mess of a heart

with deep emotions alongside it,

they quickly ran, too, out of fear.

“Just fix it!” she began to cry more and more.

Desperation began to sink in.

“Someone, please help me fix this!

Please be a man and protect my heart,

and help me overcome this.

And don’t be afraid of my sorrow.

If someone would just come and stay and not leave,

then I would recover.”

No one would help.

No one would come.

And still her heart lay there,

unprotected and vulnerable to everything in its path.

***

So finally,

she began to realize that no one would come.

There would be no knight in shining armor.

Because fairy tales are for books,

and real life has no redemption in it.

Boys would be boys,

they would handle hearts carelessly

and play with emotions

and not care at all if her heart was injured more in the process.

“Fine,” she said.

“I don’t need them.”

And that deep desire for protection and safety

from a man died in her.

“I can do this on my own,” she said.

“I always seem to make the same mistakes.

Guys can’t be trusted,

and I can’t be trusted.

Therefore, I give up that hope.

Hope and trust are for silly romantics who have not yet tasted pain. ”

So she began building the Tower.

She collected bricks and stones,

raising up a fortress of bitterness.

The mortar that held everything together was fear:

Fear of vulnerability,

fear of pain and hurt,

fear of relationships,

fear of mistakes and failures,

fear of  being left again and again.

She began constructing a tower around her and her heart:

It was a tower of dreams

that had nothing to do with men.

Her ideals shifted to that of independence

and aloneness and careers.

She did not need a man.

She did not need people.

Her heart was safe in her Tower—

and she breathed a sigh of relief.

For at least her heart would not be trampled upon

or thrown on the ground anymore.

Still, in her quiet moments,

she felt very sad.

And for some reason she could not decide why.

The girl would sometimes open up the window to her Tower,

and peer out and interact a little.

But fear always drove her back in,

slamming the windows shut.

***

And in the Tower she began to suffocate.

Fear was all around her now.

Darkness entrenched her.

The Tower blocked out

the sun,

the breezes,

the birds,

the rain.

She couldn’t feel,

or see

or smell

or taste Life.

Real Life had ceased.

Her heart was in a vacuum of senselessness.

And in panic, she realized she had shut herself off

to feeling, to love.

Self-protection had led to alienation.

She had shut out everyone.

She was truly alone.

It was dead inside that Tower.

But she was trapped inside now.

And all she could do was shake in fear.

And cry.

***

But then, He came.

At first, there was only a faint sound of His steps,

coming nearer and nearer.

The girl looked out of the Tower

and saw His approach from far away.

She had seen His likeness before,

in pictures, in stained glass windows, on wooden crosses.

But in reality, He was so different than any of those images.

He approached with the determination of a general at war,

riding on a white horse,

a sword glimmering at his side,

and His eyes were like the lightning.

And she cowered in her Tower,

for the very sight of Him in all His realness

struck fear and trembling into her very bones.

“He cannot see me like this!” she thought.

“I am ugly, worthless, ashamed.

This is all my doing.

I’m trapped, and I deserve to be left here

in my own sins.”

The first words He said were,

“Do not fear,”

gently, just like He were talking to small child.

He surveyed her Tower,

and instead of dark judgment in His eyes,

or disgust,

there was compassion instead.

“Do you wish to be free?” He asked.

She nodded and could not speak.

So He began to walk around her Tower.

And as He walked in slow circles

with steady steps,

He began to speak.

“You are loved,” gently.

“I am loved?” she asked with quavering doubt.

“Yes, you are loved,” He said.

“I am loved,” she repeated.

And all at once, His words began to sink in.

“I am loved!” she said louder.

“I am loved!” again with exceeding joy.

And He began walking around, destroying her Tower.

One by one,

the bricks of fear and bitterness and anger began to fall away.

It took much longer than she thought it would.

Each brick falling away was painful,

because the girl was not used to the sun and the beauty anymore.

And she stumbled upright and looked at Him in awe,

blinking in wonder.

Her heart still lay on the ground.

He reached towards her heart,

and He picked it up in His great hands.

The heart was enveloped in His strong fingers.

His hands covered it completely and deeply.

He held it tenderly.

He rubbed it and massaged it

so that it began to truly live once more.

It began to beat again.

The beatings of the heart were painful at first.

The girl writhed a little.

It hurt—it hurt to feel things again.

Sorrow, joy, love, care…

“It’s too much,” she said.

“I don’t want a heart anymore.

Pain will come again.”

“To love is to see pain,” He said.

“But to live is to love. Real Life is made of love.

Will you sit in death forever?”

Her eyes welled with tears.

Because she knew it was worth it.

To have an alive heart was worth it.

And He placed her heart back in her chest,

and she felt the embrace of His hands holding her heart safely,

a protection and a love enveloping her heart like never before.

She knew that now,

her heart was hers and His.

It was safely where it should be.

He kissed her on the forehead.

And He showed her the vast, open world before her,

spread out in green rolls of earth,

the horizon melting into the distance,

great mountains soaring overhead like marching sentinels.

And He said,

“Go Live.”

And so she did.

She ran through the fields.

She climbed the misty mountains.

She drank from the rippling streams.

The wind blew through her hair,

and it carried her away on its currents.

She was free at last.

And she lived Real Life.

Spring 2011, Summer 2013

kiss

Boys, The Good & The Bad – Part II: Senior Year in High School & Beyond

Here is Part II of my four part series on Boys, The Good & The Bad. Read Part I here. This series is a look back on my life and my interactions with boys. There have been many painful experiences, but many joyful ones. My purpose for this series is to show both the pain and the encouragement that males can bring to females. It’s to explore the ugliness and beauty of relationships with the opposite gender. It’s a complicated issue, but so many us of struggle with our identity when it comes to the opposite gender. We have a profound impact on each others’ lives, for good or for ill. I’ll be exploring that as the series progresses more.

kiss

***

I’m a senior in high school. My Kindred Spirit leaves for college, and that alone is harder than I ever thought it’d be. I miss her a lot.

And then Boy One enters the picture. The first boy I ever really, really like. Yes, I’ve had inconsequential crushes a few times. But this…this is different. I like him immediately. We become good friends. We have a lot in common, and we have fun together. I’m hoping it’ll work out.

But a few months down the road of our friendship, he tells one of my friends, “I don’t like her, we’re just friends. There’s not a lot of chemistry between us.”

I’m devastated. No chemistry? Does he really find me that unattractive? Now I know what it means to be “Just Friends.”

It SUCKS.

Yet I know I have to hide my feelings and be just friends, because that’s what he wants. So I hide my feelings. I don’t want to destroy our friendship, because it means a lot to me.

The more I get to know him, the more I see how broken and wounded he is. My heart reaches out to him. I want to help him. I want to heal him with my love. I want to be the girl who rescues him. I’ll do ANYTHING to help him. It seems so romantic.

“I’ve done some really wrong things,” he tells me. “I can never forgive myself. God can never forgive me.”

He cuts himself, and he does other things.

I send him verses, and I pray for him, and I try and talk to him, and I am just there whenever he needs it.

“You’re the only one I can trust,” he tells me. “No one else listens to me like you do. I can only trust you and my youth pastor.”

I am equated with a youth pastor in his mind.

For some reason, this binds me to him in even stronger ways in my mind. I have to be strong for him. I’m the only one he can trust. I’m the only one that’s really there for him. In a way, I begin to equate my love = God’s love for him. I begin to believe that God wants me to stick this out and love this guy because no one else will.

My love will save him.

So I must stay. I must show him love. I must show God’s love, no matter what happens. God is telling me to love him.

My heart begins to break, slowly, gradually, deeply.

***

Have you ever fallen in love?

Because falling is the right word.

You’re walking along living a normal life, minding your own business.

And then you trip, and you fall off a precipice into a yawning abyss.

You spin and you lose control.

You don’t know what’s up or down, right or left.

The clear blue sky grows smaller and smaller above you.

And the darkness grows stronger and stronger.

And you keep falling, falling, falling.

You wonder if you’re insane.

You forget yourself and everything you used to know.

Because love feels a lot like insanity, especially when the person you love could care less.

You’re not falling in love, then.

You’re simply falling into darkness.

No one is there is catch you.

***

For two years, senior year and the year after high school (I take a year off before I head to college), I love him. I silently, secretly love him.

Why? Because he needs me. And because God told me to. And God told me I’d heal him with love.

He never loves me. In fact, he likes every girl in our circle of friends except me. It’s torturous, as he tells me who he likes this month, and I just nod my head and grin fakely.

“What is wrong with me?” I ask myself all that time. I look in the mirror at myself and think, “What can I change about me? What do I do differently?”

Yet I must love him. God told me to. I read my Bible more, I pray harder, I plead with God to change him. I take Scripture out of context, I twist it to mean things it doesn’t mean. I convince myself that God has made me a promise that I will be with this guy, that he will change, that he will love me. And nothing changes. Nothing. “God, don’t you care at all about me?” I shout. “Don’t you see what I want? Why don’t You answer?”

No matter how hard I believe, I’m met with nothing but silence from God.

The more I try to control God, the more insane I feel.

***

I’m crushed and despairing. I begin thinking horrible thoughts about myself.

He’s rubbing off on me. All his self-loathing and abusive tendencies become part of me. I don’t know where I end and he begins. I feel everything he feels.

I stop eating. There are days I just want to punish myself, to make myself pay for the ways I’ve screwed up. If I had just done everything right, if I had just been who he wanted, then he would love me.

God told me to love him. God promised that He’d heal him through my love.

And it hasn’t happened yet.

Which means I just need to try harder. Love is about sacrifice, I tell myself. Love is about dying to self and being there for the man you love no matter what. Love is about denying oneself. If I can only do this more, then my love will change him.

And it doesn’t.

So I feel like a failure.

***

Once, I have a dream. In the dream, we are in a dark house and all of Boy One’s ghosts are in the house. There are hundreds of white, ghastly figures walking around. They overwhelm him. I keep trying to help, to get him away, but they start overwhelming me, too. We are surrounded by these haunted figures who start tearing us apart. I’m suffocating, I’m dying. The ghosts move in closer, and I’m about to be run over by them…

I wake up sweating. The dream is a perfect description of how I feel.

Yet I love him so much. I just want to help him. I can’t stop loving him. It’s this addiction. This life-sucking addiction that I can’t ever get out of.

I’ve fallen into darkness.

So I love him.

***

As year two of my love begins to come to a close, I meet with him.

“I want you to know that God loves you,” I tell him. “God can forgive whatever you’ve done. He’s just waiting for you to come back to Him.”

“Teryn, I don’t know what I would’ve done without you the last two years,” he says. “Thank you.”

“I’m just trying to be a good friend,” I say, although my heart is hurting so deeply it feels like a knife is stabbing me repeatedly.

I love you, can’t you see? I think. Can’t you see that all this is because I love you?

After that, things seem to unravel more. He pushes me away. Then he needs me. Then he pushes me away.

Then he dates another girl and doesn’t tell me for weeks. I find out through a mutual friend. “He doesn’t even like her,” my friend informs me. “She really likes him, though.”

The pattern of his life.

***

Do any of you know what it is to love and to not have that love returned?

To know that one of the most precious and beautiful of feelings is not shared by the person you love?

To know that no matter what you do, or what you say, or how much you care, they don’t give a shit.

Like I’ve said before. It’s a Game.

And I was never good at playing The Game.

***

Boy One gets worse and worse. He ignores me more and more. He uses me. He lies to me. He pretends not to know what’s going on with me.

He doesn’t even come to my going away party when I leave for college. He says he’s coming, and then he chooses to work the night of the party. He says he’ll come see me to say goodbye, and then he never does.
He says a lot of things, and I always hope, and the hope is always crushed.

When I leave for college, it’s like my heart is torn into a million pieces.

I am shattered.

God, why did You tell me to love him? I ask again and again. Why did my love not heal him? Why is my heart so broken? Why wasn’t I good enough?

***

It takes me many years before I realize how weirdly abusive the whole situation was. How manipulative it was. How I let him use me because I had no idea how I should be treated in a relationship. My identity was in him, and I was almost destroyed because of it.

I also realize how God DID NOT tell me to love him and to lose myself in him. How I tried so badly to control the situation of this broken, messed up guy with Scripture and prayer and love. How God said, “NO, NO, NO,” time and time again. I over-spiritualized everything because I was in love.

Feelings are fickle, the heart is deceitful, and spiritual language can be used so beautifully for what WE want. My own depravity got in the way of God’s voice in many, many ways.

Half the blame can be put on me. I should’ve walked away long before it got so crazy. (And I do walk away, actually. My freshman year at college, he starts contacting me on Facebook and tells me he wants to see me during Christmas break. I tell him I can’t. I tell him it’s too painful, and I can’t see him again. It’s the hardest thing I ever do).

But some of it was NOT my fault. People reject love, even when it’s well-intentioned. You can’t control another person no matter how hard you love them. They will either respond, or they won’t. They will either use that love to their advantage, or they will love back. And it takes wisdom and discernment to know the difference.

This boy didn’t know what love was. He only knew what hurt was. He’d been hurt, so he hurt me in return. He was shattered, and so he shattered me. It’s the cycle of hurt and abuse that, unless truly give to God and truly broken, perpetuates throughout generations. Hurt begets hurt, abuse begets abuse, unlove begets unlove.

And I, in my innocence and romanticism, got caught up in a something that was too strong for me to handle. I was wounded.

I fell into darkness.

God caught me at the lowest point.

***

Because you see, during this time in my life was when my relationship with God became real and raw. I was humbled, I realized how stupid I could be, and I realized how deeply I needed God. I learned so much about God’s love, what it is and what it isn’t. Even though I made mistakes, I also experienced God’s love in amazing ways. He is rejected all the time by a world that hates Him, and yet He loves. He loves us all with this deep love that aches to be reconciled to us. He aches to heal us. He aches to change us and free us.

I saw this boy with this Love, and I saw him through God’s eyes. He didn’t respond to such a love, and that wasn’t my job. But God’s love is powerful, and it is painful, it is beautiful, and it is utterly beyond comprehension.

God gradually lifted me out of those dark places. He patiently waited for me to come back to Him, for me to acknowledge my own depravity and my need for control. He saved me from myself. He loved me, He never left me, and He deepened me through this whole time in my life.

Tune in next week for Boys, The Good and The Bad – Part III: College Years

*Names changed for privacy.

heartbreak

Two Poems About Heartbreak

heartbreakIt’s Tuesday, and I’m posting a poem. Two, actually! The poems I’m posting tonight are tied into the blog series I’m currently doing in the month of July called “Boys, The Good & The Bad.” Part II of my series will go up on Thursday evening. In that post, I will be talking about falling in love for the first time.

It was not a pleasant experience. I loved this guy, and he didn’t love me. He was a broken guy who dragged me into this mess. And I, who truly believed I could love him into change and healing, tried in every way to help him. It didn’t work.

The first poem, entitled “Afterthought,” is actually a song I wrote during a time when this guy I loved liked another girl who didn’t like him. Oh, the drama. I felt very much like an afterthought, always. I tried so hard to be there for him, and yet he always had eyes for another.

The second poem is a poem I wrote expressing the pain I saw in him and how much I wanted to help him heal. I was so hopeful that through my love, he would find hope. I was convinced God was going to do miracles in him and free him.

It didn’t happen.

(I was such a romantic back then, which was wrung out of me quite thoroughly).

Sigh.

I truly loved this guy. It’s painful to go back and think about it, but I learned so much through the whole experience. I honestly don’t want to share these poems, because they show this broken, little girl side of me that just wanted love and would put up with anything to get it.

I don’t like to think about that side of me anymore.

 

Afterthought

(Verse 1) She and I walk down the hall,

And I see him standing there.

My heart starts beating hurriedly,

And in vain I wish to hide.

My head goes down,

I don’t want to blush,

Then I glance up hopefully.

And there he stands, watching only her

with an expectant little gaze.

Angry, I chide myself,

My heart sighs with lost hope.

Because I care too much—

My heart is rent—

Although I know

I should’ve known better

*

(Chorus) Because I’m just an afterthought.

An afterthought, an afterthought.

He didn’t give me a glance—

His look was all for her.

Because I’m just an afterthought,

And that’s all I’ll ever be.

*

(Verse 2) Oblivious, she chatters on,

Thinking they are only friends.

Forgotten, I stand quietly there

While my mind keeps wondering:

Why did I come?

Why can’t she see?

These secrets are too much for me.

For as he gazes at her, his eyes are sad

Although he tries to mask his pain.

And I see, reflected in his face,

The loneliness that reigns in me.

And he cares too much—

His heart is rent—

Although he knows

He should’ve known better.

*

(Chorus 2) Because he’s just an afterthought.

An afterthought, an afterthought.

She doesn’t give him a glance—

She is just his friend.

That’s all he’ll ever be.

Because he’s just an afterthought,

And that’s all he’ll ever be.

*

(Bridge)

And yes, I feel lonely,

And so do they.

And why can’t it all

Just end happily?

But the thought comes to me

That God has a plan

Although we haven’t seen it yet

And yes, it’s all confused now

But we’ll endure ‘til it’s time

For the right love to come along

*

(Chorus 3) Because none of us are afterthoughts

Are afterthoughts, are afterthoughts

He loved me before time—

He wrote my love story

And that’s comfort enough for me

Yes, I’m not an afterthought,

…afterthought…

…afterthought…

I might feel like it now—

But the time will come

for true love to begin.

03-26-06

Your Eyes

Ever since I became your friend,

I can read what you’re really feeling:

Even if you lie or smile vacantly,

Your eyes tell me the dark truth.

I have seen deep sorrow and regret

Reflected like wells in your eyes–

All the sins and pain of yesterday,

Your eyes tell me the vague story.

 

How I wish I could change

The sadness in your eyes,

Replace the self-condemnation

And give your eyes radiant joy.

 

I wish I could dispel the darkness

That dwells in your eyes.

I wish I could shout and sing

Until your eyes shone with redemptive melodies.

 

And oh—how I love your eyes!

Even when they fill with un-spilled tears,

Mirroring your self-deprecation,

Even then, oh—how I love your eyes!

 

And I cry to myself when I am alone

Because I can’t heal your eyes.

And I hurt and ache inside

Because your eyes have no peace.

 

All I can do is pray and wait

For the God of heaven to heal,

So that your eyes can truly smile at me.

Oh, how I long for that day!

 

When you have forgiven yourself,

When you have surrendered all,

And made sense of yourself, your past, your future—

Then I will see His light in your eyes…

12-26-06

rejection

The Fear of Rejection (Part II)

As I mentioned in another post,  I have struggled with fear my whole life. Two of the biggest fears that are the core of who I am are the Fear of Vulnerability and the Fear of Rejection. I’m afraid of being vulnerable because I am afraid of being rejected. I’m afraid of rejection, so I refrain from vulnerability. It’s all interconnected in this weird way in my head.

Recently, one of my roommates told me, “You seem to have been rejected a lot in your life.”

After stopping to think of it, I realized this is true. Rejection has been a common theme in my life. It started in junior high with the cliques who rejected me. Then in my church in high school when most of the teenagers there rejected me. Then of course, there’s the rejection of guy after guy—in friendships as well as dating relationships.

It is not just the groups, either. It has happened a handful of times with friends I thought were true friends. Friends whom I loved dearly, and who walked out of my life abruptly and unexpectedly. One friend didn’t invite me to her wedding (and I had been helping plan her wedding shower). Others have walked out subtly. My junior year in college was a particularly hard year where I had a few friends close to me begin to have conflict with me—first in subtle ways, then piling up accusations against me. Everything became my fault.

Throughout my life, I wonder, “Why? What is wrong with me?” Yes, I am not a perfect person. But most of the people who have rejected me were people I deeply cared about. They were people whom I tried as hard as possible to be their friends or to maintain the friendship. Did I handle everything perfectly? No. It is my nature to think that when rejection happens, it is all my fault. I always run through each scenario, wondering what I did wrong, wondering what personal flaw brought around my rejection. Then, I must try and fix myself. I must become someone different than who I am just so that I can somehow be accepted. I never consider the other person in the equation.

***

At the beginning of 2010, I was attending a Christian conference. At that conference, I began to see how utterly idolatrous my relationships with people were. I worship people far above God. I fear rejection from man, and the fear is so great simply because I worship man. My identity, my value and worth, was in people. Throughout my life, rejection has always crushed me because I put such a high value in what people think of me. I want so badly to be what people want me to be. And so often, I have to fit into their preconceived ideas of who I am. Or I have to change my personality. Or hide my deepest passions and thoughts from them. So I quench myself, and my devotion in Christ, to please those around me.

As a Christ follower, I began to see that this was sin. It was a sin that wound itself around the core of who I was: this need to find satisfaction, fulfillment, in people. In fact, most of my other sins—my fear, my past anorexia, my depression, etc—all stemmed from relational issues. My desperate need to be filled by people and their love.

Yet Christ told us to take up our cross and follow Him (Mark 10:21). He told us to love Him with all our hearts, bodies, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27). He told us to love Him so much that our other loves would pale in comparison (Matthew 10:37-39). I must abide in His love (John 15:9). My identity and value should be in Christ. Christ loves me, yet I so often run to idols who cannot satisfy. I cannot worship people.

So I repented. I knelt down on the ground in my dorm room, crying harder than I ever have before as I realized the magnitude of my sin in this area of my life. And I asked that God begin to show Him what finding my identity in Christ would mean. “I want You to be first in my life,” I told Him. “Do whatever it takes to teach me to love You first.”

***

That “epiphany of repentance” was right at the beginning of 2010. After that, the weirdest thing happened. From that moment on until the end of my senior year in college (May 2011), I had the hardest period of relational rejection ever. The conflict with good friends I talked about earlier started. I realized anew how much my guy friendships/dating relationships had deeply wounded me. I had several good guy friends I thought would really be there for me leave. All potential dating relationships fell apart. Several friendships I was clinging to disintegrated.

It all came to a head the last semester of my senior year. A good friend I loved so much emailed me and told me she was walking out of my life. To this day, I really have no idea why. This was the climax. I felt stabbed in the heart. So betrayed and bewildered in every way. I remember praying to God, “I don’t understand. Why do You keep taking people away that I care about? What is the point of all this?”

But as I prayed, I knew this time in life was not a coincidence. God was asking me to face the Fear of Rejection. “Teryn, you will be facing rejection the rest of your life,” He told me. “The more you love Christ, the more rejection you will experience. You can’t be afraid of man and his rejection. And I love you too much to let you stay bound by this fear anymore.”

And then it all came together in my mind.

***

If Christ was rejected, I will be rejected. Rejection is something that will be part of a Christian’s walk if they are truly passionate about Christ. Why should we expect any less when Christ Himself went through such pain and rejection in His life?

The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.  (Luke 9:22)

As they were eating, He said, “Truly, I say to you that one of you will betray Me.”

Jesus said, “You will all fall away, because it is written, “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” (Mark 14:27)

Whoever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him and lead Him away under guard.” And coming, Judas immediately went to Him, saying, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him. ( Mark 14:44-45)

And they all left him and fled.   –Mark 14:50

Often times in my life, I have pondered deeply the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus’ anguish. The gospel narratives describe His agony in these terms: “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death.” In His darkest hour, Jesus prayed, “Let this cup pass from Me.” And yes, He was referring to His crucifixion. But the crucifixion wasn’t just about the physical pain. In its essence, the crucifixion was about rejection. Rejection by his religious leaders. Rejection by the world. Rejection by friends and family. Betrayal and denial.

Was that part of the agony Jesus faced as He wept and wrestled with God in the Garden? It doesn’t seem fair, does it? He was the answer to the world’s problems. He was Truth Incarnate. And they spit in His face. Jesus knew they would reject Him even before He walked on the earth. Yet He was willing to face the Fear of Rejection because He loved us passionately. Jesus faced the Fear of Vulnerability by showing His love in arms spread out over a wooden cross. Vulnerability did cost Him everything. It did make the world reject Him. Yet was it worth it?

[Let us fix] our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

***

You see, here’s the thing: Most of the rejection throughout my life has been because of Christ. In my high school youth group, my rejection came when I wouldn’t follow the kids in their outward sins. It came when I wanted something deeper in my walk with God. Rejection has come in the wake of my desire to challenge others to Love Christ, to be honest about brokenness, to heal. rejection has come in my passion for following God Himself, not man-made theological constructions and legalistic religion. Ever since I became a Christ follower, my desire has been Truth. And many—even Christians—cannot face the Truth. The Truth that will shatter our self-seeking, self-righteous lives and change us inside and out.

And here’s another thing: Most of the people who have rejected me were more harmful to me than good. They either used me, judged me, or didn’t want to follow Christ. Some of them were stuck in deep sin and didn’t want to repent. Some of them didn’t love me, they only wanted a version of me that they liked. Consistently throughout my life, rejection has been a part of God’s plan to protect me. He is a good Father who never takes away things without a reason (see PART I post).

***

 Do you fear rejection? Do you fear vulnerability? There are so many reasons we have the fears we do. So many wounds that need to be healed. So many rejections that can leave scars that take years to heal from. But it worth it to give these rejections to Christ and ask that He heal and take away the fears.

When my identity is in Christ, I don’t have to afraid of what people will do or say to me anymore. I am called to share in His sufferings. This isn’t easy. I struggle still with the Fears of Rejection and Vulnerability so much in my life. It is a battle that is not over. I must be vulnerable and share myself with the world. Yet I fear. It is a battle that is worth it, so I can share Christ in the midst of a hurting world.

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:20-24)

rejection1

The Pain of Rejection (Part 1)

I’m sure many of you have experienced the Break Up. Whether it happened over the phone, in person, or over a text—the Break Up is not something fun to remember. Maybe you saw it coming, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you were the one doing the breaking up.

Still, no matter the case, rejection is never easy. In fact, our identities and our worth are so often bound up in that special someone. Break ups can cause a shattering pain and heartbreak that has far reaching consequences in our lives.

Why? We so often ask. What did I do wrong? What could’ve been different? Sometimes it’s hard to see God in rejection. But is He there, somewhere in this mess we call broken relationships?

***

Although I’ve had my fair share of messed up boy friendships and semi-relationships, I’ve only officially dated once. It was during Bible college. His name was Luke, and I began to crush on him towards the end of my freshman year. An intelligent guy, Luke read hundreds of books and knew everything there was to know about theology. He was really funny. Nothing happened until our sophomore year, when he found out I liked him.  In a daring step of risk, I gave him my number. He called me one day. We began to talk and hang out.

Luke was a Christian who was into me. And I was a Christian. So it was supposed to work out, right? “I have prayed a lot, and I really think God wants us to date,” he told me. I was happy. I liked him. I wanted to be with him. And nothing else mattered.

A short time later, he broke up with me.

I admit, I was stupid. I didn’t see it coming. One evening, he told me we needed to talk. We began walking from school, then somehow wound up at McDonalds. He bought fries. Then, he began to break up with me. “I don’t think God wants us to date,” he told me. “This isn’t going to work. I have no peace about it. I just don’t think I can be there for you emotionally and spiritually like you need it right now. It has nothing to do with you. It’s me.”

I tried very hard not to cry in front of him. I wouldn’t be one of those girls. So we walked back to campus, and I left him and went into my room. Turning on the shower, I finally cried.

It was a hard rest of the semester. I was already struggling with depression. After Luke broke up with me, I was devastated. I couldn’t figure out why God had let it happen. I had really cared about this guy. I had been ready to invest in him and commit to him. He had acted like he was going to commit, too. He had wanted me to trust him, he had demanded it, actually. And he had demanded I commit my future plans to him. To me, this was a sign of commitment, right? So I could begin leaning on him a little. I could trust him, which was what I needed from a guy relationship.

Then he broke up with me. It was like he pulled out the rug from underneath me. And I fell flat on my face, feeling foolish and stupid for ever even trusting him in the first place.

I was passively suicidal that spring semester. I just wanted to get sick and die. That was the semester I began to go to counseling. It was getting to the point where I couldn’t function. I began to see that something was broken, and I needed to be okay with the process of figuring out my issues (see my post on Brokenness).

***

I share this with you because there is something so important to this story. You see, there were a ton of red flags in this relationship. But I couldn’t see them because my identity was in him. My identity was not in Christ. I worshiped this guy far above Christ. And it was my downfall.

First red flag: he didn’t want to call it dating, and his communication was very confusing. He just wanted to hang out almost every night. And call me every night if we didn’t go out. But he wouldn’t call it dating.  We were “getting to know each other.”

Haflway into our not-dating-but-hanging-out-one-on-one-a-ton period, he began to get confusing. One evening, he said: “I really like you. I just don’t know if I should date you.” Oh? That’s weird. I thought. It didn’t even make sense. On another one of our not-dates, he said, “I just don’t know what to do with you. I like you so much. I just don’t know.” After a few more weeks, we were at a coffee shop when he asked me, “Why should I date you?” So I set there trying to explain to him why he should date me. It was kind of strange.

Second red flag: our different opinions on faith. He was super intellectual, and he didn’t agree on certain things that I felt were crucial to a Christian’s walk with God. He began to tell me things that made me nervous. Things I didn’t agree with at all. But I couldn’t really argue with him, because he was far too intelligent. He knew he was right.

In fact, he used to tell me things like, “I’m right. I know I’m right.” He would never listen to my opinions. If I told him something contrary to what he thought, he would always say, “Prove it.” Or, “I don’t believe you. That’s wrong.” It was like nothing I said mattered to him at all. He didn’t listen. He didn’t respect my own thoughts or intelligence.

Another red flag was how he handled my own emotions and pain: I have mentioned in another post how I struggled with depression. I also came to college with a deep heartbreak from a guy in high school that I had been wounded from extensively. I tried to tell Luke about him. “I don’t trust guys anymore,” I told him. “I need to have a good guy show me what a good relationship is supposed to look like.”

“Man, you’re really affected by things, aren’t you?” Luke told me. He didn’t want me to talk about pain. In fact, a few conversations later, he told me he didn’t want to hear about my depression or pain. “Let’s just not talk about it,” he told me. So I couldn’t really open up to him. But Luke demanded that I trust him. He would get angry when he felt like I wasn’t opening up to him. “I want you to trust me,” he said. “Just let’s not talk too much about this stuff.” So I did try to trust him, even though it was forced. And I kept the deep, inner struggles I had to myself. I had to be happy and entertain Luke or he wasn’t really satisfied.

The last red flag: he wanted me to commit and shape my whole entire life around him. One evening, we got together and talked about our future. “Let’s talk about how this could work out,” Luke said. He wanted me to plan out the next ten years of my life with him. We talked about the future. He wanted to make sure I would do what he wanted. “I mean, I feel really selfish asking you this,” he said. “But I know what I want to do, and I just need to know if you’ll fit into it or not.” So Luke made me commit to him and to following his life plan without any regards to me. He was intimidated by my plans of writing, and he didn’t try to support or encourage my dreams at all. In fact, I always felt as if he were defensive and annoyed if I talked about things I hoped to accomplish. It was all about him.

***

When I began to go to counseling, I began to realize how much baggage I had. How broken I was. There were so many puzzle pieces that hadn’t come together yet. So I dated this guy, formed this unhealthy relationship, because I hadn’t begun to understand myself and my issues yet. Because of my past “relationships,” I was used to being walked over and subtly abused. I was used to being used, to having my own emotions and thoughts passed over. So I attracted someone similar in this because that was a pattern already set up in my life. I began to realize more and more patterns as I prayed and went to counseling.

A professor told me shortly after the break up: “He’s treating you like a child. You need to get a backbone!” It was the best advice I ever received. When you don’t find your worth in Christ, then people can treat you any way they want, and you will let them. I was someone who desperately needed a man to fulfill and fix her. I was a girl who put her worth in misguided men. A girl who felt desperately alone and needed someone to satisfy deep caverns of loneliness in her heart. And because of this, I let a guy gain my trust, destroy my trust, and leave me even more wounded than I already was.

Out of all of the issues we might have with identity, relationships so often form the core of who we think we are and how we value ourselves. Some people have had a healthy upbringing with healthy relationships, while others struggle their entire lives to maintain healthy relationships. It is so important to begin realizing the worth and love we have in Christ. It is so important to have our identity completely in Christ before we pursue romantic relationships. If I would’ve had my identity in Christ, I would never have even dated this guy in the first place.

Looking back, I know God allowed that Break Up for a reason. Sometimes, rejection has to happen, because we are blind to our own issues and unhealthy patterns. Sometimes it’s just not right or the right timing. I know I was certainly not ready to date. James 1:17 says that “every good thing and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadows.” God is a good Father who gives good and perfect gifts to His children. And sometimes, God has to be the Father who takes away things that aren’t good for us. It’s hard to comprehend, and it’s not easy to trust. Still, so often rejection by the opposite gender turns out to be a wonderful blessing in disguise.

(Note: I will posting more on the issue of rejection in a Part II post)

heartinsand

Heartbroken: Identity in Messed Up Relationships

heartinsand

And they lived happily ever after.

 If you were like me, your childhood was filled with stories that ended with this happy refrain. Whether you watched lots of Disney movies or read fairy tales, and epitome of happiness seemed to be…in a relationship. In falling in love with that special guy or girl, depending on your gender.

Oftentimes, though…once you grow up, thing seem to get messier. We begin to find that friendships and relationships with the opposite sex are complicated, confusing. With the passion of youth, and the lies of the media, ringing in our ears, we put our identity, our worth, in him or her. Because by doing so, life truly can be an Ever After.

But what is love? And what if you love someone who doesn’t love you? And where does God fit into all of this? These are the questions I will wrestle with in this post.

Note: This story I am about to tell you has defined so much of who I am today. I’ve struggled with how much I should divulge, and have tried to keep it as short as possible. Yet this might be one of the longer posts you read.

***

            My junior year was a year of relatively peaceful “spiritual weather” in which God spoke gently. My friends and I did Bible studies, reading books like 1 John and Philemon. I remember these books talked a lot about loving one another. Feeling tired of such messages, I began to get exasperated. “I know how to love,” I thought with annoyance. “Love is not that difficult.” Most things God said in His word were easy, I believed. Why didn’t Christians just follow Him? Hardships would probably be a lot easier to handle, people wouldn’t be depressed or in pain, families and friends would show each other love and forgiveness.

Then I met *Peter. It was senior year in high school. There was a senior meeting at my house. Another friend said she was bringing a boy named Peter who she wanted to set me up with. So on the day of our meeting, I opened the door to let him in—and there he was. Dark hair that was just a bit tousled, light grey eyes, a slow but friendly smile.

I knew. I knew I would like him, and I felt a small voice inside me say that day, “This is going to be very hard.”

We began talking a lot and hanging out, and before I knew it I had given my heart away completely.  He was funny, we could talk easily, he was kind, we had fun together. He read his Bible and went to church. He was perfect. Not to mention cute. There was hope that he liked me, I believed. He definitely didn’t mind hanging out with me, and I could tell he enjoyed himself. Yet at the very end of November, a good friend had these words to say: “Teryn, I just thought I should let you know that Peter doesn’t like you in that way. He said there just wasn’t any chemistry.”

There wasn’t any chemistry? I felt sick inside, but I laughed it off. It was no big deal, I assured her. I hadn’t liked him that much. But I went into the bathroom that night, turned on the faucet in the sink, and cried—the rushing water of the sink drowning out the quiet trickling of confused sobs. These were the first of many, many tears shed.

I couldn’t show Peter how I felt, though. So I washed my face, took a deep breath, and practiced my cheerful smile. I decided I’d be his friend and that I’d be okay with it.

* **

So we were friends, and he trusted me with many things he didn’t trust with anyone else. The closer we got as friends, the more I began to realize how much hurt he had—a lot of deep issues, a lot if self-hatred. He didn’t understand God’s love or forgiveness. It broke my heart, because I wanted to help him.

Yet I cared for him much more deeply than he did for me, and the closer we got the worse it felt. “You are the only one I can trust with this stuff,” he’d say.  Why didn’t he like me then? I was trying so hard to be a good friend, and he didn’t notice me. There wasn’t any chemistry, he said. Why not? What was wrong with me?

Finally, the inward feelings of pain and confusion I was trying so hard to hide from everyone began to surface in external ways. In early December, I toppled headlong into the first true depression I’d ever experienced. One particular night, I felt swallowed in a sea of darkness, utterly alone and lost, with only self-deprecating thoughts to keep me company.

“What’s wrong with you?” I asked myself again and again. “Why doesn’t he like you?”  I remember getting up at 1:00am and reading Psalms to take my mind off things. Where was God in all of this? I cried and cried that night. And from then on, tears were always close to the surface.

Depression was followed quickly by illness. I lost twenty pounds in three weeks, and I had pain that ran up and down the left side of my body. My mother and I went to countless doctors trying to figure out what was wrong, but no one could figure out anything. During the spring of my senior year, my life consisted of mental haziness and physical pain, of sterile-smelling rooms and doctors who shook their heads in bewilderment. A strange, lingering sickness that would not be resolved for another 5 years.

I’ve already mentioned that during this time of illness and depression, I began to dabble in anorexia. Partly because I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me and why Peter didn’t like me. Partly because I desperately needed to control something in my life. Partly because I felt as if I’d failed God because of the darkness I found myself in, and I needed to be punished.

* * *

            Unrequited love is a strange and painful thing. And I did love him. It took me months to wrap my mind around the feelings that were so confusing to me. These feelings were not, “I like him. I want to date him. I want to go to movies with him and have dinner with him.” It was more than that—it was a deep and acute longing to support and be there for him. Nothing else mattered but to care for him, to help him, to cherish him. I wanted to show him God’s love because he didn’t understand it.

However, my love was far from pure. In early March of my senior year, God showed me how much I’d loved Peter in a selfish way. Having never thought of God’s glory, I’d wanted him to see me as the girl who’d saved his life. I’d replaced God with Peter, and nothing but darkness could be the outcome. I had to love God more than Peter. I had to learn what Real Love really was.

No matter what I thought I had known my junior year in high school, I didn’t know anything about how to walk the life of a Christian. Life was extremely difficult without leaning on Him. I couldn’t guard my heart, or love, or forgive without Him. I couldn’t be faithful to Him without His help. I realized I would be a selfish, prideful girl with horrible ulterior motives in all my relationships if God didn’t refine my stubborn heart. Aghast at myself, I repented and begged God to help me learn how to truly love.

* * *

            Yet the journey was far from over.

The summer after senior year, I had decided to take a year off between high school and college, hoping to go to college the following fall. Peter was still around, and we were “just friends.” However, that summer he began to fall away from God. I watched as he began pushing friends away, not returning phone calls, being rude and aloof. Angry with him, I wanted to abandon him and let him figure out life on his own.

“No,” God told me gently. “Stand by him. Love him.”  Those two simple requests—stand by him and love him—were to shape the next twelve months of my life. As I struggled to obey God in these simple requests for a friend, I realized anew how selfish I was. You see, I interpreted the command to love him as a sign that it was romantic love. That I should love him, and that he would love me back. But God didn’t say that. He meant agape love—selfless love that thought of nothing in return. So throughout this entire year, I was struggling with what I wanted and what God was really saying.

Peter didn’t make it easy to learn to love. One time, he didn’t return my calls for three weeks. This frightened me because I had legitimate reasons to be concerned about him. Yet he didn’t ignore other people. I knew for a fact that he’d called other friends and had them hang out. Why was it just me he treated with special disdain? Finally, he answered the phone. “I just didn’t feel like it,” was all he said to justify his actions.  He began to lie to me about everything, making false promises about phone calls and hang outs. I was so angry with him, I told God I wasn’t going to love him or be his friend anymore.

“Would you love him if you knew he’d never love you back equally?” God asked me one morning in my devotions. Struggling for many minutes, I finally prayed, “No. I can’t. Not on my own strength. But if You want me to love, then take over from here. I cannot love him on my own.” Peter would never love me romantically. I wanted him to, but there would never be anything between us. Yet I still had to love him with agape love, and not cave into bitterness and anger about everything that had happened between us.

It was from that moment on that the refining fires of God’s love began overtaking my cold human heart. These fires were intense and painful as I learned to serve Peter with no thought of love in return. I called him and wrote him encouraging emails. He never responded. I prayed for him every day. And he didn’t care. In fact, he never acknowledged any of these acts of friendship. There were many times I sobbed from the pit of my stomach because I felt so much pain, and I didn’t understand why God would put me through this. Yet I had to learn to lean on God’s love, His agape love that loved the entire world who rejected Him. To a very remote degree, I began to understand God’s heart for the world, and God’s heart for Peter.

Because Real Love loves no matter what. Real Love is the kind of love that is there for people. Real love sees a person’s pain and prays for them, listens to them, interacts on deep levels with them. And even when that person may lash out or reject you, Real Love never succumbs to bitterness or unforgiveness. It still loves. Real Love doesn’t seek its own interests, but that of others. Real Love is God’s Love for us at the cross, when Christ emptied Himself to the point of death—even for us, horrible sinners who spat in His face.

***

            Finally, one day before summer, I met with him in Starbucks. I felt God wanted me to speak to him about His love. I sat there holding my Bible nervously. “Peter,” I said, “God loves you. You don’t have to do anything to make Him love you. You don’t have to do anything to make Him forgive you.”

He just stared at me with tears in his eyes. “Teryn, you’ve always been there for me, and I don’t know what I would’ve done without you,” he said quietly. “I don’t think I would’ve survived this last year without you. So thank you.”

Peter walked away from me that day with a huge smile on his face. Yet I only saw him two times that summer. One time I drove to his house to give him a book by Philip Yancey I was reading that I thought would really encourage him. To my knowledge, he never read it. Another time I gave him a picture I’d drawn. The act of drawing this picture was my way of visibly forgiving him for all the pain he’d caused me.

Yet ultimately none of it mattered. Peter went his own way, he fell away from God. He began to lie to me more and more frequently, and the false promises continued. That summer, I found out he was dating someone. He had tried to keep it a secret from me, but a friend told me about it. Again, this wound opened up in my heart as I realized that the person I loved did not love me and never would.

In August, right before I went off to Chicago for college, I threw a going away party. I invited everyone weeks in advance because it was so important to me that people come. But Peter didn’t come. He actually scheduled work the night of the party. I remember crying very deeply and brokenly as I realized he had walked out of my life. The tears were not because I was angry; I was overwhelmed with the amount of pain someone could inflict and yet the amount of love I still felt in my heart for this boy.

In reality, I still loved him. I still wanted him to love me. I was hurting very deeply, yet loving very deeply, and I didn’t understand why God had decided love could be so painful. Why had God said, “No” to a relationship? Why had He taught me love, only to take away the one I loved?

Over and over, I sang a Sara Groves song in broken whispers: All I have need of His hand will provide. He’s always been faithful to me.

            Peter did not ever say goodbye.

* **

It is painful to look back on that time in my life, because there are still so many confusing elements. Yes, God humbled me through this experience. My self-righteousness and self sufficiency was shattered as I realized just how hard Real Love truly was. God broke into my heart during this time. My relationship became real and raw with Him. I began to see into His heart—to see the way the world rejected Him as Peter rejected me. Yet He was a God with a never-ending love that could not be quenched, who called His followers to share that kind of love with the world.

However, as the years have passed—I have processed this period much more. Looking back with a maturity in Christ I lacked as a senior in high school, I can see that I put my identity in Peter. If he didn’t like me, if he wasn’t there, then my whole world was shattered. He could treat me how he liked—manipulate me, lie to me, ignore me. I didn’t care. He was an idol, and I justified many of his passively-abusive actions towards me without acknowledging the wounds he was causing me.

You see, because of this friendship, I have struggled with abusive tendencies ever sense. He treated me like I was nothing most of the time—just someone to dump his garbage on when the time was right. He did not care whatsoever about my pains, my struggles. He liked almost every one of my girl friends except me—even when he knew I cared for him deeply. It was a one-way friendship where he took, took, took.

By the time I left for college, I was completely drained of self-worth. I didn’t know where I ended and Peter began—which were his problems or my problems, his pains or my own pains. His issues rubbed off on me in deep, complicated ways.

His treatment of me was also damaging. I began to believe somehow that I deserved to be treated in such a fashion. I believed I was simply a tool to be used for the gain of others. And I believed I should be punished, ignored, or manipulated when I wasn’t perfect—by others and by myself. My own emotions couldn’t be shared, because that is not what a relationship is supposed to be. A relationship is about the guy, who simply takes.

These are the lies I had to fight all four years of my college career. I only dated once during that time, and I attracted someone vaguely similar to Peter simply because that is what I expect. This relationship only confirmed what I felt about guys and myself. It is a terrible truth that once a woman is treated in a self-deprecating way, it is very hard for her to ever value herself as she should again. Many do not understand this unless they’ve gone through a damaging friendship or relationship.

To my knowledge, Peter never came back to God. When Peter began to slowly leave my life, I struggled with intense anger with God. Why are You taking him away? I’d ask. Why don’t You let everything end happily, like it’s supposed to? What was the point of all this pain unless something good actually happens? What is the point of Love if people still walk away from it? This are questions I still struggle with to this day.

            Something a professor said to me my senior year in college is true: This professor spoke of “vicarious suffering.” Vicarious suffering is when you walk alongside someone bearing a great pain, and you ache for them. You help them bear their pain. Just as Christ suffered on our behalf, carrying the burden of our sins on His back. “If you avoid suffering, you sometimes avoid helping people,” this professor said. Sometime, we don’t get anything for helping others. Sometimes, we get a stab in the heart. Pain. Yet is it worth it to show love? Christ did.I suffered to help Peter. I truly loved him, and I tried to help him. And I did help him through a very difficult year. Love is sometimes pain. But Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13).

Yet God took him away because my story with him ended. God took him away because He knew that my friendship with him was damaging me in ways I couldn’t see at the time. Even if I was supposed to love him with agape love, I was not supposed to be in a romantic relationship with him. If I had had my identity in Christ at the time, I could’ve been a friend to him, yet still retained my own sense of worth in God’s eyes. If I had truly submitted to God’s commands to agape love, I wouldn’t have longed for him to love me romantically. That never should’ve happened, and God protected me from the dangerous thing I craved at the time. God always knows what’s best for us, even when it seems as if He is so cruel sometimes.

* * *

        A year at college passed. My story with Peter had ended, and a new one had begun.

Or so I thought. But the last part of the story took place the summer after my freshman year of college. A mutual friend was leaving for Mexico to be a missionary, and she had a going away party. As I drove up, I saw Peter’s car parked in front of the house. At first, I was overwhelmed with sorrow and went into a bedroom before he could see me. A friend prayed with me, and I was able to go out and sit down in the living room with composure. It was there he came up to me after a few minutes. He said hello, and I responded back. “It’s been a long time,” he said. I agreed.

We did not talk much besides that first initial acknowledgment. I didn’t think we needed to. Yet as we all laughed, played games, and reminisced about our friend, I realized that I still loved him. It was not romantic love anymore, but agape love. I looked at him and didn’t see the pain, the hurt, the confusion, the tears. I did not see what I had so desperately wanted—love in return. I just saw Peter. He was forgiven and loved by God, and I felt God’s love inside me well up for this prodigal son. It felt like my heart was bursting with joy, burning with Real Love.

“Don’t you understand now?” God whispered to my heart that night. “That’s how I see you. I love you because I love you. This is My love.”

***

Some wounds run deep.  It is usually the wounds of the opposite gender that cut the deepest. Yet I have seen God faithfully walk me through the process of healing. I am no longer the girl desperately longing for love, who let an unhealthy boy define her worth. God has grown me up, stood me on the solid ground of His Love, and is leading me onward and upward.

I have long ago forgiven and healed from Peter. God used it in His plans to change me and humble me and learn a deeper meaning of love. Still, sometimes there is still a little girl crying in me, yearning to be loved rightly. Yearning to be honored and treated with true respect by a man. To be loved back in the same deep fashion that I have learned to love others, and which so many in the world have no understanding. This has yet to happen.

But in the end, I know this: That God is ultimately the Love that can heal the deepest wounds. God is the One who loves us when all others fail. He alone must be my identity. A person’s love will always fall short of the Love we have in Christ Jesus, who poured out His life to the point of death, even death on a cross.

*Names and slight details are changed for privacy sake.