Let me tell you a story about my heart.
A boy broke it in high school. That's really where the story begins, even though there were about 17 years before that. He damaged my view of what a relationship was with his dishonesty and unfaithfulness and the ways he hurt me. He took what had been an entire heart, and he did what only can be described as shattering it in a million pieces.
I had been a whole person before him, but after him, I just felt broken. I didn't know how all my pieces would ever fit back together.
Slowly, slowly, slowly, over time (several years, nothing quick at all), those fractured pieces started to form a healing heart. I started to come back to life, and my heart didn't just find a way to beat again, but it found a way to thrive and pump blood boldly through my veins to fuel my action and my passions again.
I found a new way to be whole.
I started to share my resuscitated heart again, to let others see it, be part of it, even hold it at times, but I kept it guarded.
I knew how much my heart had been through, and even as I tiptoed back out into the world, I kept a little fence around it so I would stay safe.
That fence started out as a simple means of protection, but failed attempts to find a safe home for my heart over the years made me start to fortify that barrier.
What was once just a precaution became a necessity, and I barricaded my heart more and more, strengthening the walls around its edges, building it higher and higher to keep it safer and safer.
I had found a new way to be whole, yes, but somewhere along the way, I decided the hurt wasn't worth it and the risk wouldn't pay off, and I locked my whole heart up to keep it away from the world.
I would open the gate up and give people a way in from time to time, but it always seemed to bring more hurt and more confusion and more unnecessary heartache, and I started to believe it wasn't ever going to be a good thing to let people in.
I kept the guard up. I kept the walls up. I kept the door locked shut. I kept everyone at a distance.
But behind the guardedness, my heart was failing me.
It couldn't thrive locked away like that.
It didn't have room to beat and stretch and pound in my chest anymore.
It never felt those fun flutters of excitement and anticipation.
It didn't have room to fall either.
My own heartbeat started to feel far away, like all those walls and barriers I had built to keep myself safe were instead just muffling my rhythm and silencing my own identity.
Eventually, I stopped believing my heart was a whole thing anymore. I started to feel like it was lacking, like I only had half a heart in my chest and it wasn't complete or capable of being all the things a heart is.
So now, here I am.
I have this heart.
And I admit, I don't really know what to do with it these days. It mostly just feels like a mess that even I can't quite make sense of.
It's been hurt, it's been broken, it's been mended, it's been brought back to life.
It's beating, but it's been boarded up for a while, so the rhythm is a little unsteady.
I'm learning how to tear down the walls that have surrounded it for too long, but it isn't an easy process and I haven't made as much progress as I'd like.
I'm taking small steps forward, each one of them a brave declaration that I will not keep my heart hidden away forever, but I still occasionally take a few steps backwards too.
I'm learning to crack the door open and let the light in. I'm learning it takes a lot of courage to do so.
I'm learning to let people help heal my hurts.
I'm learning to seek out older, wiser, more mature hearts to help mentor mine.
I'm thanking God for the restorative work He's done on so many parts of my heart.
I'm praying for the parts that still feel weak and broken.
I'm realizing His hands hold my heart better than any of my feeble attempts at safeguards could.
I'm wrestling with what it looks like to guard my heart wisely without barricading it completely. It's a balance I haven't figured out yet.
I'm trying to be hopeful that my heart will find a safe place to call home someday.
I'm fighting to stay hopeful instead of falling back into jadedness and cynicism.
I'm giving myself grace when I share my heart with the wrong people, and I'm fighting to not let those mistakes convince me to lock it all up again.
I'm taking a good, hard look at my heart, and trying to discover all the things that make it beautiful and brave instead of only seeing it as a thing that's been broken. I'm discovering it's so much more than I've been giving it credit for, and I'm in the middle of this falling in love with my own heart process that's really surprising and so very necessary.
Because the story has been this: one boy tore my heart in two, and then others that followed broke off other pieces, and situations and circumstances caused cracks to form, and the hurt of the world made it ache, and losses burrowed deep and made caverns in the middle, and pain left it bruised and battered...
But my heart is still beating.
Blood is still pumping through my veins.
My heart, however tattered, is whole. Wholly held by a good Father, wholly loved by the One who made it, wholly cared for, wholly wanted.
I'll hold it cautiously and share it tentatively, but I'll know that it's both strong and resilient, and nothing will ever destroy it entirely. I'll let others add their marks and stitch up wounded parts, and I'll keep at the hard work of healing, too. I'll give my heart a voice, and listen to every one of its beats and whispers. I'll give my heart grace, and I'll speak kindly to it when it's hurting. I'll let it weep when it's wounded, but I won't let it wallow, either.
I know this heart has love to give. I know it can give it every day, in a million beautiful ways. I know the brokenness only made it more brave and beautiful, and I know the healing will bring more hope than I ever dared to dream of.
Whether or not this heart finds the home in the hands of another or not, it's my own home first, and I'm learning to love living in it and with it.
I don't know what the next chapters of this heart's story will look like, but I'm daring to hold on to hope that they'll be something wonderful and whimsical and worthwhile and wholly beautiful because He's writing them.
Steady heart that keeps on going, steady love that keeps on hoping, lead me on...