This season, with Valentine’s Day on the horizon, my thoughts somewhat naturally drift toward love, more specifically, romance. Valentine’s Day makes women’s affections and expectations rise, and men faint, fail or faithfully rise to this overblown occasion. Like[C1] many others, my hopes for the holiday are minimal at best[TT2] . Truthfully, my last big experience with romance didn’t go so well. One moment, I was caught up in a whirlwind of expensive flowers, thoughtful handwritten cards and grand gestures. And the other I was piecing together the moments, trying to remember how I’d allowed my world to be so easily altered to suit someone else, almost abandoning my identity. I was left wondering how the promises of a bright future, wilted almost as quickly as the flowers on my coffee table.
I was wounded by love.
Like any good Christian gal, I threw myself into “conscious healing” reading books and scriptures to figure out where I had gone wrong, retracing my steps. Had I made an idol of romance? Had my desire clouded my vision? Was this some sort of divine retribution for having less time in devotions? I prayed, asking God how I could have trusted so easily and discerned so little. I read articles on how to avoid toxic people in hopes of identifying those who didn’t mean me well at a much farther distance.
I remember speaking with a counselor who told me that my goal in severing ties with my former flame ought not to be hate. Hate still required genuine concern and emotion. Hate, she said was not the antithesis of love, it was indifference.
So I sought to be indifferent. Bit by bit, I changed. The more I let go of every emotion I found myself feeling it all a distant memory. I crawled deeper and deeper into my shell; my fortress of solitude, comfortable and safe. The naïve, trusting, romantic comedy loving, Jane Austen reading, hopeless romantic, I had always been was no more. She had caused me too much trouble in countless times past. I finally learned my lesson. I was through. Love, if not overrated, was certainly over-priced.
I was determined not to ever let anyone take advantage of my openness and vulnerability again. Suddenly my heart didn’t ache, it didn’t burn… it didn’t do anything. I was made of steel. This sentiment was great… until I started to feel like the Tin Man. I realized my heart was still broken, but not in the traditional sense of the phrase. It was broken like an elevator, or computer. Structurally, it looked okay but was simply existing, not doing that which it was made for.
Many of us have been burned by the people we hold most dear; loved ones who’ve betrayed us, spouses who have strayed, parents who didn’t stick around. They taught us not to trust, not to expect, not to hope, and by definition, not to love.
Then in the distance I heard love calling me, asking me to let it back in. I felt a gentle tug at my heart daring me to be brave, like a child beckoning me to come outside and play. I realized that hiding from pain by hiding from love was certainly not God’s best, desire for me. Every day jaded souls who are either wounded by love or weary of the wait, walk away from love, or lose our faith in it. We give up because hoping seems to painful, not realizing that closing our hearts is simply another way to suffer. So I did it. I tiptoed toward the door and braced myself for what I would find. I opened the door and found… laughter, kindness, intimacy and grace.
So this year, I dare you to do the most frightening thing you can think of - Hope again, expect again, believe again, risk loving again.