When heartbreak’s heavy paws are pushing on your chest, when its foul breath is choking life out of you, and when its sharp claws are threatening to tear you apart, you need something to defend yourself. You need a tool to tame what seems to be an untamable beast.
I was given that tool. You may need it too. In my last post, I described it as a lion-tamer’s whip that kept grief from devouring me. And that it was.
You see, I needed that tool desperately. In addition to the punctuated uprisings of shocking and tragic loss in my life, there existed for me a slow and torturous daily drip of heartbreak.
It was the abiding unhappiness in my home.
You may be familiar with such an environment: sometimes loud, sometimes frighteningly quiet; painful physically, but inflicting emotional wounds even more deeply; teetering on the edge of complete disintegration of family and self at all times. In my formative years, my life became a simmering cauldron of sadness, insecurity and fear.
But into the center of that turmoil I was given a gift. It was the gift of conversation.
Propped up on top of the dresser in my bedroom was a small and thin cardboard picture of Jesus. Somehow in my young life I was told that I could pour out my soul to him and ask him for help. So I did. I talked. I told him what I was afraid of. I cried. I voiced my worries. I outlined my emergency plans for personal survival. I asked questions. I shared dreams about the future. I pled for help. As the day came to an end, in the dark solitude of my room, before my brother flopped into his bed in the opposite corner, I engaged in dialog with someone who saw and understood.
Conversation. Was it a psychological coping mechanism for a dysfunctional existence? Was it a spiritual escape? Maybe. But I’ll tell you one thing: heartbreak couldn’t stand up to it. Grief grew weak in the knees when I brought its thrashing, violent and domineering ugliness to Jesus in conversation. Life was by no means perfect—it wasn’t even very good, but loss could not crush me when I unloaded its heaviness regularly in conversation. Pain could not win when, each day, it was drained away with a simple talk.
And there was more. Not only did I find a release and refuge in this remarkable conversation, I started to learn from it. Suddenly, I could look at the wild animal of heartbreak and understand its ways. Instead of being caught up in its ravaging attacks, I could hold my whip, walk around the mighty beast, and examine it. I wasn’t the one in captivity any longer. Grief was the caged monster. Loss was the one in confinement. I was free. And from this experience I could grow in understanding. From this vantage point, I could find peace and see hope.
Much more grief would come, but so would more conversation—and more gifts. I still had much to learn, but because of one precious gift, I would not be devoured.