Not a new start, a new path...

I was talking to a friend on the phone this morning. As she poured her heart (and heartbreak) out to me over a situation she cannot fix or control, I thought about disappointments and heartaches in my own life; things I have had to take in stride, but may never fully understand. 

I always want to be a friend who listens and loves, rather than a friend who has "answers." I try to give encouraging support and offer possible suggestions. But more than anything else, I just want the person who is aching to know that I care and I empathize. I know how it feels to have an aching heart. Many times, I encourage myself as I attempt to encourage and comfort someone else.

I know how hard it is to go through seemingly endless days of not understanding and trying to figure something out. I know how it feels to over-analyze my every word for how I could have said something better (or in fewer words). I know how it feels to scrutinize myself, focusing primarily on my flaws. I know how it feels to be much harder on myself than I would ever be on anyone else. 

It is exhausting. 

When we hung up, I saw this meme. And I felt inspired to write.

This meme speaks to me on more than one level. The part of me that so wants to fully understand and be understood -- the me that pursues understanding until it's a lost cause -- is definitely represented here. But also, the clumsy me who trips, falls, walks into walls, doesn't see the obvious obstacles at times as I navigate through life ... or just navigate through my own house.

As we talked, my friend repeatedly said to me, "I just need a completely new start." She is in mid-life. I told her, "You don't need to start over. You need to keep moving forward. You need to let go of what cannot be changed, take the lessons you have learned and focus on today; not what happened in the past or what might happen in the future. Only think about the changes you can make today. How can you take small steps today toward being the 'new' or 'different' person you want to be? How can you change direction and get on a different path that goes to the destination you want to reach? How can you find joy in today, despite the losses you grieve and the pain in your heart? Because even if this situation never improves, your life isn't over. You can still find joy and blessings in your life and in the good relationships you have. You don't have to let this one thing that's so wrong ruin everything that's good." 

I could say those things to her with empathy because they are things I say to and ask of myself as I struggle with my own relational and life challenges. She knows that everything I say to her is coming from my own journey of heartache and struggle. I am never trying to diminish or make light of her suffering.

There are things in this life that we will never be able to understand. Additionally, so much of the time, people's words and actions toward us are not fully about us or the issues being addressed. There are always puzzle pieces we don't have that might explain what's missing from the equation. But God has every piece of the puzzle. And sometimes He is the only ingredient missing in a situation; whether it's because not all parties have fully opened their hearts to His illumination and guidance or it's just that His timing is not our timing. God is able to look deeply into each of us and know more than we can even know about ourselves OR our struggles. 

For this reason, He gives us Proverbs 3:5. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. 

His peace surpasses understanding. 

Whatever you are struggling with today, fully give the outcome to Him. 

Never stop trying to grow and mature. Never give up on understanding. Never stop trying to love well at all times. Forgive. Take chances. Be vulnerable. Understand that hurting people will hurt people. You will hurt people. I will hurt people. And we will all BE hurt by people. Pain is an unavoidable part of love. The more deeply we love someone, the more deeply they are able to wound us. But the more we become like Christ in the way we love others, the less the wounds will deter us from whole-hearted loving. He was rejected and crucified by the people He came to love and to save. Yet He still loved them and asked the Father to forgive them. He did that as He hung on the cross and suffered in ways I cannot fathom; ways that put my own suffering into perspective. 

I remind myself often that to extend the love of God, my love cannot be focused on what I receive from anyone in return for my love. If I love out of need for a certain response or reciprocation, that's about me. If I learn to genuinely love others without receiving anything in return -- not even their love -- I am learning to love the way God loves me.

Pray for the people who hurt you. I don't mean pray that God will change them. Pray for His will and His blessings to prevail in their lives. Pray for their peace and their healing. You may not get to know how that prayer is being answered in their lives right away, but I can promise you that praying this way will bring healing, peace, and freedom to yours