by Lois Flowers
The question Ann Voskamp asks in The Broken Way has come to mind frequently these past few months as I’ve tried to adjust to some sad new realities in my parents’ lives. And then there’s a variation on this theme that hits even closer to home: how do I live with my one breaking heart?
My world hasn’t been shattered by a sudden tragedy, a devastating betrayal or a long trial that finally ended with a crushing loss. But day after day, little by little, a specific section of my heart is slowly breaking. Every time I see my parents, every time I get a phone call from their nursing home, every time I get another question about how they are, the tiny cracks spread just a bit more.
It’s hard to describe, this thing that’s happening. My heart is still whole—I feel that too—and yet it’s breaking. It’s a paradox, a conundrum, a contradiction.
The irony of it all is that in some ways, my heart—and by that I mean my ability to empathize and care and feel—might be as healthy as it’s ever been. Which, somehow, makes the ache of this gradual breaking even more poignant.
I’m naturally bent in a logical direction, so I find it hard to understand all this. However it works, though, the truth remains—I can’t stop living with my one breaking heart.
I can’t make the situations and circumstances that are causing the breakage go away. I can’t reverse them or solve them or fix them. Nobody can.
I thought about listing some scenarios that might cause other people to feel this same way, but if it applies to you, I have a feeling you don’t need my help in figuring that out. You may not have framed it in this way in your mind, but it hit you when you read it—you need to know how you’re going to live with your one broken heart too.
I’d love to give us all a three-point list, a surefire strategy, a one-size-fits-most way to accomplish this daunting task. But the truth is, all I can offer at this point are these few tips that might help today.
• Acknowledge what is happening. Don’t deny it, try to explain it or get overly angry about it. Your heart is slowly breaking. That’s where you are right now.
• Don’t constantly try to patch or repair the cracks in your heart. Only God, over time, can handle this restoration project. He will—I firmly believe this—but in His timing, using His people and His methods.
• Pray. When your emotions start to overwhelm you, bring every last care and concern to the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
• Try to enjoy the other parts of your life. This is easier said than done, and yet, it must be done. Especially if you have people around who need you to be present for events and seasons that are separate from the situation that is breaking your heart.
• Be thankful. Whether you’re immersed in the hard 24/7 or your awareness of your breaking heart comes and goes, make it a habit of noticing the smallest things that bring you joy and thank God for them, right then and there.
• Reach out to others. I’m not talking about starting up a new ministry or getting involved in some new program. Wherever you go (especially in waiting rooms of various kinds), you’re bound to run across people who are hurting, lonely or flat-out exhausted. Look them in the eye and ask them about the quote on their T-shirt or the sports team emblem on their hat. Just start a conversation.
Like I hope we’ve just done here.
• • •
It often helps to hear from fellow travelers who are just a bit further down the path. If you’ve found other ways to live with your one breaking heart (or your one broken heart, for that matter), please feel free to share them in the comments.
Lois Flowers is mom to two lovely daughters and wife to one good man. She’s an author, former journalist and lifelong Midwesterner who values authenticity, loves gardening and always reads the end of the book first. She’s a relative latecomer to the world of social media, but you can connect with her on Twitter (@loisflowers16) or Instagram (loisflowers). She also blogs regularly at loisflowers.com.