Monday, January 31, 2011

Rebuilding Your Life after Rejection (Part 2)

How do you stop the “wearing away” of emotional erosion after rejection? How do you rebuild your self esteem and restore confidence?

Plant seeds of truth. After a devastating forest fire, erosion is contained by planting grass seed or building retaining walls. After a breakup, emotional erosion is shored up by planting seeds of truth and building supportive walls around your heart to retain the truth and prevent future erosion.

The seeds of truth come from reading and hearing God’s word, planting them in your heart and applying them to your life. In time there is growth, heart hedges holding your life in place—rooted and established.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ...” (Ephesians 3:16-19, emphasis mine)

Rooted in God’s love and what He says about you, you can stand firm when you feel like your self worth is being washed away by the strong winds of someone else’s unkindness or how your hair turned out that day.

When your roots go deep into the source of life, the water of God’s word you stay fresh and growing. Plant seeds of truth and as they grow, you will be better able to take hold of your true identity—what God says about who you are.

Know your true identity. What is your identity? It is what your driver’s license says? Is it what you tell yourself, what others say about you, or what the world thinks? How you see yourself affects how you feel and what to do or don’t. It affects your level of confidence.

So often we want to hide the broken and less-than-perfect parts of our selves. Yet as we come to realize that Christ loves us in the middle of our mess, that startling love helps us to accept both our strengths and weaknesses, both the dark and light, and our self image becomes less broken and more whole.

Self esteem is the value you place on how you see yourself. It’s how content you are with that image. Of course, self esteem fluctuates but if it is too high it can lead to a prideful heart.

Perhaps you’ve seen a woman who thinks she is “all that.” Her smugness and conceit is contrasted with the person who has low self esteem: she thinks she is “none of that.” She focuses more one her mistakes instead of what she does right. She is often sad or fearful, and her insecurity prevents her from speaking up, taking chances, or moving forward.

Whether it’s too high or too low, ask yourself if your assessment of your self or situation is accurate. Ask God to give you insight.

A healthy view of yourself is balanced. A woman with a healthy self-esteem respects herself. She feels secure and worthwhile because of what God says about her. She has confidence in relationships and in life and generally more joy. She knows she has significance; she matters. With her sense of worth and value intact, she sits up straight and walks tall. Her head up, this confident woman is friendly, gentle and kind. She makes eye contact when she speaks, and she doesn’t constantly apologize for everything she says or does.

After a breakup, you may feel like your self esteem has plummeted because often rejection can make you feel unwanted, unloved, or unworthy. It’s hard to learn to trust again and you wonder about your judgment. Often women wonder “what is wrong with me?” when in reality a man has not beheld your true worth. And neither have you.

It’s important to remember that your value as a person is not based on what one person thinks about you. As you allow God to shift your self esteem from how you see yourself to seeing your worth and value through God’s eyes a realignment takes place. God empowers you to see differently, you begin to act differently.

You change your perception, and you change your life.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Emotional Erosion: Rebuilding Life after Rejection (Part 1)

The summer of 2002 had been one of the driest in decades and our state was enduring a drought when the largest forest fire in Colorado’s history, the Hayman Fire, started in the Pike National Forest.

Sadly, this inferno was ignited when a forest service officer was burning a letter from her estranged husband. The devastation was enormous; it caused thousands of people to evacuate their homes, totally destroyed over a hundred of them, and burned about 138,000 acres.

What a mess.

The intense heat of the fire had destroyed the protective layer of groundcover over the soil (like plants, grass, shrubs, and even litter). With the topsoil washed away, tree roots are exposed and unprotected, and the plant life is vulnerable to damage and depleted of nutrients.

Just as a forest fire can lead to erosion of soil, the fire of harsh words, negative comments or repeated rejection can begin to wear away at your self esteem.

What are some reasons our self esteem gets damaged?

Rejection is one of the biggest self esteem crushers, whether it’s from the crumbling of a long term relationship or an I-don’t-think-so brush off after a few dates. You hope, you wonder, and you take a risk with someone. Then you breakup and feel like you’ve lost again. It can do a number on your self esteem and you wonder how you’ll muster the confidence and courage to start all over with someone new.

A distorted perception of yourself. A “distorted perspective” of something is fuzzy and imprecise, and often untrue. When I was in eighth grade I got my first pair of eyeglasses. I remember looking out the window at the trees and noticing how clearly I could distinguish each individual leaf. With the clarity the glasses provided, blurry green blobs on a stick transformed into majestic maple and oak trees.

Sometimes we don’t see ourselves clearly either. The lenses through which we’ve been viewing our lives have been distorted by the constant criticism of a parent, the degrading comments from kids at school or by the downright mean way someone has treated you.

“Distorted images are not only shaping your perspective but are also hindering your possibilities,” says Jud Wilhite in Eyes Wide Open.

We need God’s better-than-20/20-vision to gain a clearer vision of who we really are, to come out of hiding, to be courageous, and to see ourselves as He sees us.

Loss of self. Instead of being misaligned, you may feel like your self esteem has been misplaced altogether. You feel lost because you lost yourself in the relationship. Maybe you were a people pleaser, a “yes” girl, and now you’re uncertain as to your identity and purpose. “Who am I apart from you? Who am I now?” Maybe you spent so much time on his life that you neglected your own.

He may have left you, but you left you as well, and you abandoned yourself.

Loss of self means you are out of touch with what you need and want. It is the ultimate abandonment when you don’t feel worthy to live in your own life. Your heart is like a deserted house, dark and empty, with boarded up windows and a fence in disrepair.

Stuck in the past. When hurtful memories from the past linger too long in your heart, they can wreak havoc on your self esteem in the present. An example from classic literature is the eccentric Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.

Jilted on her wedding day, Miss Havisham was so devastated that she left all the clocks in her house at twenty minutes to nine (because that was the time she received the heartbreaking news from her fiancé) and she never changed them again.

This woman held on to her hurt for years by leaving everything as it was on that dreadful day: the decaying remains of the wedding banquet littered the table, and she continued to wear the faded wedding dress. Every day she stared at painful reminders of the past as she clung tightly to “what could have been.” Feeling her life was ruined, she let her house and herself live in ruin.
How do you stop the “wearing away” of emotional erosion? How do you rebuild self esteem and restore confidence?

Stay tuned for more—Part 2 is coming on Tuesday.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Real Hope or False Hope? Knowing the Difference

Walking with HOPE is not a fairy tale. It's not like being in a Disney cartoon where bluebirds carrying colorful ribbons lead the way and happy chipmunks wave as you skip down the lane and daisies bloom instantly at your feet.


It's all about knowing the difference between false hope and true hope.

Here's the thing. After a relationship ends, you may hope the one you cared about will come back. “False hope” is when you expect him to return when it’s highly unlikely or even impossible that he will. Because you want it to happen so badly, you may deny the reality that he is already in another relationship, that he’s married, or that—for whatever reason—he is going in another direction without you.

You can, however, be optimistic that things will get better in your life and that God has good things for you down the road.

False hope is like being a Pollyanna-—optimistic, yet blind to reality. It is wishful thinking or vain imaginations.

Real hope, biblical hope, is different.

Biblical hope is confident trust in the reliability of God’s promises. It is solid and strong because it is based upon God’s words in the Bible. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)

Hope presses on and looks ahead. “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13, 14).

Day or night, ask God to show you what to do, to guide your path so you can look forward with trust, not trepidation.

When Hope Road seems to zig zag and you cannot see the way ahead, Hebrews 10:23 encourages you to press on with confidence and perseverance. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Finally, biblical hope believes that God will give good things. He protects and He provides as He sees best.

Eugene Peterson said, “Hoping is not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion or fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain. It means a confident, alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do. It is a willingness to let God do it his way and in his time.”

When nothing seems to be happening…

When you are tired of trying to make things work out on your own…

When you cannot see ahead and you think things are taking entirely too long…

Hold on to hope.

The cadence of Christ is often unlike your own pace, but God is still at work, always at work, in your life.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lifting the Fog When the Future is Unclear

Choosing to have hope is a “one prayer at a time; one choice at a time” path that leads to a more whole and healthier attitude and life.

You start out by taking your first steps. As you walk on, roadblocks may come your way, but you navigate obstacles with God’s help. As you choose to follow and keep following, you learn to listen and take action.

It takes courage to get and step out on a new path. Whether you begin hesitantly or with a let’s-have-an-adventure excitement, the important thing is that you begin-—and keep choosing hope. You seek the Lord and listen for his guidance. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21)

By taking one step, and then another and another, you leave the old place of brokenness and rubble, fraught with complication and unanswered questions.

Even when the future is unclear and it feels like a primordial haze hangs over your heart, walk on. Because like the early morning low cloudiness in San Francisco, eventually the fog will lift and clarity will come.

Your blue sky days of joy will return.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Road Map From Hurt to Hope

I’ve often wished the path from hurt to hope could be easier, clearer. When you decide to take a trip and pull out a map, you can locate a specific starting point and ending point. Plus, you have a destination, and when you get there you know you’ve arrived.

In breakup world, there is no perfect map.

There is a path each of us follows. There are good ideas and guidelines—and certainly God’s word—but how that combination works to get you to a better place is different for each of us.

There is no wooden sign that tells you the exact moment you are exiting pain and entering peace, as in “You are now leaving the land of loss” or “Welcome to the land of new beginnings.”

You have to walk in faith.

And you must choose which road to walk.

Your own “Great Awakening”
Time has passed since your breakup. Whether it’s been weeks, months or years, eventually your slumbering self wakes up and the light of God’s truth brings greater revelation. You have more awareness, insight and clarity about your pain and the relationship ending. You’ve come a long way in your healing journey.

And now you stand at a crossroads. There is a fork in the road and before you are two paths, one is the way of hope—Hope Road. The other is the path of hopelessness—Despair Drive. It is a defining moment, to have hope or not. Which road you will take?

Despair Drive follows the trail of bleakness. You just want to give up. You don’t want to deal with this “getting over a breakup” stuff any longer; you want to stay asleep and succumb to the darkness of disappointment. It’s too difficult, and it’s taking too long.

You show up for work or for lunch with friends, but a part of you is not really there. You’ve kind of checked out; the lights are on but no one’s home. You’ve been rejected and you can’t seem to get over it. Somehow you think a broken heart is incurable.

But beware: Walking down Despair Drive is dangerous. And not making a decision about which path to take is in itself a decision. It’s understandable to have a heavy heart after a breakup. But don’t “lose heart.” Resignation to hopelessness can lead to isolation, alienation and further misery. You may even often miss out on support, love and friendship, the very things you need.

Despair Drive or Hope Road? It’s your choice.

God has called you “out of darkness and into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9) How will you answer?

Monday, January 24, 2011

When It’s Hard to Move Forward

If you are not yet ready for day, you may hesitate moving forward many reasons. Perhaps you seem to have a hard time letting go of the past. Your mind keeps wandering back to Memory Lane when things were good and life was happier.

Or, you stress and obsess that maybe he will reconsider. Thinking about this other person preoccupies most of the space in your brain. Maybe he will come back. What if he does? What if he doesn’t? Maybe your chance for love has passed; it’s all over, and nothing will ever change. For whatever reason, hope is stirring, but is thwarted.

You feel like you’ve been emotionally sleepwalking, going through the motions of life, but you’re not fully aware or awake on the inside. Or, you may be physically present but not engaging conversationally with people or with life.

You don’t really want to wake up on the inside because you don’t want to feel the pain. It’s just easier to numb out. Your circumstances still seem dark so maybe you think it’s only natural to want to “sleep” on the inside.

The problem is when you’ve been hurt and your hopes have been dashed, it can be hard to move forward and have hope—not only in a new relationship but in life. Especially if you’ve had many breakups, you get tired of the repeated discouragement. It hurts. It’s hard. And you never want to go through it again. So you put hope to sleep in your life because you don’t want to be disappointed again. You are stuck in your story.

And it’s time to get up.

Of course, adjusting to the light can be difficult at first. Often when I open my blinds in the morning and brightness fills the room, I have to squint at first. It takes time for your eyes to adjust, just as it takes time for your heart to adjust from the darkness of despair to the light of hope.

Dawn turns to day gradually, not suddenly. In the same way, heart healing from a breakup is a process. It’s a series of actions and choices. Healing takes time, and massive amounts of God’s truth being poured into you to combat the feelings and lies that say it will always hurt, it will never get better, or you will never find love again.

My friend Ken once remarked to me about the changing of the seasons, and how you don’t always notice an exact point when the transition occurred. It is gradual, and alights on you when you least expect it. But one day you notice that the lifeless, cement-gray world you’ve known for months has been transformed into to blue skies and blossoms. When did that happen? You see the effects of it, but you may not be aware of the exact moment it changed.

While there may not be a specific “mending point” in your heart healing, it may be a series of moments or progression of turning points. Moments like hearing the comforting words of a friend, or reading an insightful quote from a book, or learning a lesson from nature, or the unexpected warmth of God’s presence wrapped around you and you awaken to the realization that one day everything will be okay.

And you are well on your way to day—-and hope.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Awakening Hope

Even if you are not ready for day
it cannot always be night.
--Gwendolyn Brooks

Where I live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, sunrise can be spectacular. The fingers of early morning crawl across the eastern plains, gradually illuminating the city skyline, and increasing in brightness to reveal—like footlights on a stage—the splendor of the majestic snow-capped Pikes Peak. You can almost hear the Director signaling His creation, “Cue the morning; let a new day begin!”

The sun bids the darkness farewell, and the earth awakens. It is a fresh start in your Heart Land as well, as your residual breakup pain fade and hope wakes up. Heartache is turning to healing.

At the break of day, birds chirp cheerily, the alarm rings (not so cheerily), and sunlight streams through your bedroom window announcing the arrival of morning. The aroma of fresh coffee or hot tea beckons.

But for some people it’s hard to get up and get going. It this half asleep-but-not-yet-awake stage, they rouse and stir a bit, yawn and stretch, and then roll over and go back to sleep. They don’t want to get up yet. It’s too early, or they’re too tired, or they simply have no motivation to get out of bed. Perhaps they want to hold on to the last vestiges of night and linger in the darkness.

Others, bless their “I’m a morning person” heart, are exuberant at the crack of dawn. They spring from slumber to waking with the lively energy of Winnie the Pooh’s friend Tigger, full of bounce and ready to start the day.

Either way, getting out of bed is a choice. Just as having hope is a choice. You can choose to stay asleep in the darkness of bitterness, resentment, and hopelessness. With the curtains closed tightly, and no light penetrating your heart, you wallow and mope, and keep moping.

Or instead, you could choose to follow the way of hope, and keep hoping, choosing to move forward into the full light of day—into the fullness of the abundant life of greater peace, joy and wholeness.

The outcome of each path is entirely different.

PRAYER: Here’s a prayer for you to read to yourself or out loud as you talk to God about how you’re feeling: Lord, I need more hope in my life. I need more of You. I feel like I’ve been asleep, dead to the world and dead in my heart. Would you help me to let go of discouragement and depression in my life? I don’t want to be like this anymore. I want to run to the feet of Jesus and find comfort, strength, and deeper character. Thank you for showing me that, in your loving sovereignty You direct and redirect my life. You have new things for me, good things. Help me to look forward with faith. Enlighten my heart to see your faithfulness--all you’ve done for me in the past, and all you are doing now on this road from breakup to better days. I put my trust in You. In Jesus’Name, Amen.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

You Hurt Me and I Have to Forgive You?

Forgiving someone who’s hurt you can be difficult. In an ideal world, the person who has wronged you would come forward and say he was sorry. He’d acknowledge his wrong-doing and ask for forgiveness. In an ideal world a lot of things would be different. In your situation, the other person may or may not show signs of repentance, remorse or being sorry. Forgive anyway.


Yes. It’s time to set your heart free.

It’s not easy, but it is possible—when we know what forgiveness is and is not. I’ve been posting recently on this topic, so if you missed it, check out the other blog posts from this week. Here are some final thoughts. It’s helpful to know that:

Forgiveness releases you. When you do not forgive you are the one that hurts, not the other person. You may feel physically sick, or have other aches and pains from holding onto hurt, anger and resentment. Don’t let an unforgiving heart eat you up on the inside and destroy you.

Whether it was ten years ago or ten days ago, when you forgive you are unbound and free to move into the next season of your life. Forgiveness is the balm that heals the heart.

When the pain has been dealt with you can leave the past in the past. You don’t have to drive on in life constantly looking in the rear view mirror. Because you are now moving forward, you look through the front windshield toward the future.
Will you choose your way and hold on to the hurt, or choose God’s way and forgive?

Freedom, baby. You are the one the can be free.

Forgiveness is not a one time thing. When Peter, one of Christ’s followers back in the day, came to Jesus and asked how many times he should forgive his brother, Peter thought he was being generous when he offered to forgive up to seven times. Jesus’ reply must have startled Peter when Jesus said seventy times seven. We forgive again and again, but we are also wise as to how we let the other person treat us.

Forgiveness is an act of your will; it is a choice. Choosing to forgive someone is a heart decision. You may still feel hurt or angry but you don’t have to carry it around in your purse or back pocket.

Here’s the key. It may be helpful for you to process the hurt before you are ready to forgive. Check out Chapters 3 and 4 in “When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton is Empty” for suggestions on how to deal with your emotions and how to grieve losses. You may want to write in your journal, talk with a trusted friend or Christian counselor about your issues, too.

Another helpful way to prepare your heart to forgive someone is to pretend they are sitting in a chair next to yours. You say whatever you want to say, and can speak freely because no one else is listening. The power of release comes as you let loose and vent with words, tears, or both. Even though they are not there to hear it, speaking aloud releases the pain in you. Just as you take the garbage out of your house, you can get the emotional garbage out of your self.

Forgiveness can eventually lead to acceptance. It takes time to integrate new ways of thinking into your heart and life. But in time, you will be able to come to a place of acceptance that this relationship is over and assimilate this new idea. Acceptance does not always mean you like it or agree with it, it simply frees you to live in reality and get on with your own life.

Forgiveness does not always lead to reconciliation. It can, but it may not always be wise or safe. Forgiveness does not mean we have to have a relationship with the other person or allow them to treat us badly. In addition, the other person may no longer be alive, or may not be able to receive what you have to say. Use discernment to guard your heart and stay away from a person who’s harmed you.

Forgiveness leads to freedom and peace. A person who has been forgiven much and who chooses to forgive others has a freed heart. No longer tethered to the pain of wrong, they can run in righteousness, made right with God. Perhaps you’ve seen it. They are more at peace and have a lighter heart because they’re no longer carrying around the weight of the past. Their shoulders relax, and a smile replaces and angry scowl. By God’s amazing grace and mercy they are never the same.

What is binding you-—bitterness, anger, resentment, or offense? Perhaps it’s time to release your vice grip hold and forgive. Give God your thirst, your ache, and your needs. As you choose to forgive and release, you will find freedom and peace.

“I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.”
(Psalm 119:32)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

After a Breakup: Forgiving Someone Who’s Hurt You

After a breakup we may have a hard time with forgiving someone who has hurt us.

Sometimes we are wrong and we need forgiveness, and other times we are wronged; someone has hurt us. When they do, Christ wants us to forgive them. But before we can get to that place of release and forgiveness, we often wrestle with the decision. We want the other person to “get it,” to understand how much he has hurt us. We may want him to pay or be punished for what he’s done. The flesh (the human side of us) and the spirit part of us grapple with why we should forgive.

Men and women in relationships can hurt each other deeply. One guy started dating one of my closest friends while we were still together. Another one didn’t even have the guts to break up with me; he just closed off all communication—after two years of being together.

People lie, they hide, and they say and do things that can mar your heart for a really long time. Maybe the guy you were with used you, or maybe you’re sick about letting yourself be used. You didn’t want to, but you gave in to his sexual advances (whether it was sex or just doing more physically than you were comfortable with). You naively thought that would make him love you more—and maybe he would stay. But he didn’t. Maybe he was unkind, tactless or downright cruel. You wanted a promise-keeper and ended up with a promise-breaker. On the other hand, perhaps he was a “great guy” but you’re mad because he didn’t choose you.

We may have myriad reasons to be hurt or angry, and a part of us is hesitant to readily forgive. But our perspective changes when we realize what God has done for us. And in the light of the mercy He’s shown us, we can extend the hand of forgiveness to others.

To be sure, forgiveness does not always come easy. We want the scales of justice to be balanced; we want things to be fair. Yet, when we came to God asking Him for mercy despite our unwise and selfish ways, we were more than okay with the scales tipping in our favor.

Because He has first forgiven us, Christ commands us to forgive. And in an act of loving obedience to the One who loves us most we can follow Ephesians 4:31, 32, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Jesus himself said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14, 15)

Forgiveness comes in time, not always right away. Sometimes we have to grieve it first. Ross Parsley once said, “Forgiveness is a decision, but healing is a process.”

Forgiving others is possible as you:

you have been hurt. “I have been wronged.”

God’s forgiveness. “I have been wrong, too. I need forgiveness.”

to forgive. “I’m wrestling with why I should I forgive him?”

to God in prayer—and forgive. “Because God has forgiven me, I will forgive him.”

While you may have been offended, that does not mean you have to hold on to the offense. In this life we will be hurt or offended many times; that is a given. However, we have the choice of how we respond to the wrongdoing.

John Bevere in The Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense says that offense is a tool used by the enemy to bring believers in captivity leaving them ensnared and unable to break free. “Pride keeps you from dealing with the truth,” said Bevere, “It distorts your vision. You never change when you think everything is fine.” You hold onto the offense, so you hold back forgiveness.

Bevere helps us to remember the law of sowing and reaping. “…when you sow the love of God, you will reap the love of God.”

Just as you plant seeds in your garden and reap a harvest of summer fruits and vegetables, when you sow seeds of unconditional love you reap the love of God in your own life. And that love gives you the reason— and the power—to release the person who has wounded you.

“The love of God is the key to freedom from the baited trap of offense,” said Bevere.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Forgiveness Unpacked

Often people find it difficult to forgive because they are not clear on what forgiveness is and what it is not.

Forgiveness is not forgetting about what happened or acting like everything is okay. It does not mean that you condone what happened, agree with it or like it. You are not overlooking the offense or excusing it, and you are definitely not letting the offender off the hook for their words or actions.

Instead, you’re putting them on God’s hook, and trusting God to deal with it fairly because He said He would. As you release the person who’s wronged you to God, He ensures justice is served; not you. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

I like what C.D. Baker says about God’s justice in 40 Loaves: Breaking Bread with Our Father Each Day, “Yes, God seeks justice and so should we. He grieves when we are oppressed or taken advantage of, and he demands justice on our behalf. But what we forget is that Jesus already paid the price for others’ violations against us…and for our violations against them. We don’t need to seek vengeance.” (emphasis mine)

Indeed, the God of unconditional love is also our advocate for justice.

Forgiving someone who has hurt or wronged you is a big topic, so there’s more to come later this week.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Forgiveness After a Breakup: “You Don’t Owe Me”

When a relationship ends there are almost always hurt feelings: pain, anger, confusion, betrayal, emptiness—the emotions are myriad. Getting over someone who’s dumped you can be hard, but it’s possible. The key to getting through and getting to the other side—back to joy again—is getting rid of resentment and letting go of offense.

Forgiving the person who’s hurt you—and maybe even forgiving yourself can unlock the door to a freedom and peace you never could have imagined.

“Forgiveness,” says Dan Allender in Bold Love “is the light that penetrates the dark and frees the somber, shamed heart to leap with love.”

Easier said than done, right?

Sometimes, like the leftover brown leaves that cling to bare trees even when their season has passed, we cling to what we want or what we think should happen. “He’s wrong, and I’m right.” or “I want justice (or revenge).” or “What he did was inexcusable.” We hold on to the pain out of pride, ignorance or sheer stubbornness.

But the thing is, holding onto that pain not only continues to hurt you, it can also block you from moving forward with your life. The pent up pain turns into emotional poison works its way into other areas of our lives. Yuk.

You Don’t Owe Me
Years ago Andy Stanley gave a talk on the topic of forgiveness. I remember him saying something to the effect that when you do not forgive, it’s as if you hold that person hostage in your heart. You take them out once in a while, beat them up, and put them back.

When you feel wronged, you think the other person owes you something. They owe you an apology, an explanation, a childhood, a relationship or a marriage. Whatever it is, you are holding them prisoner, but you are the one with the pain.

Then Stanley, with fists closed to demonstrate us holding on to unforgiveness, opened his hands, turned his palms upward and said, “Forgiveness means we release that person and say, ‘You don’t owe me.’”

You don’t owe me. Wow.

How do you go from a place where you feel someone is emotionally indebted to you to a place you can release and forgive? Often people find it difficult to forgive because they are not clear on what forgiveness really is.

C. S. Lewis once said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

Ponder that, and in the next blog post (on Tuesday) we’ll talk more about what forgiveness is and is not.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Heartache? There is Hope…and It’s Just Around the Corner

Whether this is your first big breakup or your fifteenth, letting go hurts. The amount of time you spent in the relationship, and how close you were emotionally and physically can all play are part in how long it takes to stop the heartache and move forward.

You may need a period of adjustment and emotional repair to steady your self after a tidal wave has rocked your love boat. Even a sailboat after a squall needs some time in dry dock to repair the hull and mend the sails.

There will be new adventures ahead, but for now, it’s heart restoration time.

A time to heal
You may not believe this right now, but the day will come when you don't think about him every day, and the mention of his name doesn't pierce your heart like a verbal arrow. You can drive past your special place and it no longer has a hold on you. It’s just a place. You know who you are and what you want and it's okay. You know God loves you and He is with you. And that makes all the difference.

The sun sets, the heart breaks, but the light of God’s brilliant and illuminating truth shines on. You come to realize that endings are a part of life, and so are new beginnings.

And you learn that God heals brokenness and brings joy, hope and healing. And one day everything really will be okay. Maybe not today, but some day.

As the tears pour out you discover that everything happens for a reason, even when you don’t understand or like it. Bleary-eyed, you look up and smile as it begins to settle in your heart that God really is in control; He knows what He’s doing, He cares and He is working all things together for the good whether the relationship door slammed shut or gently closed behind you.

A door closes, a window opens, and a fresh breeze blows into the stale mourning stillness that lingers your heart. In the midst of your mess, God surprises you, and things begin to change.

A wise man named Solomon reminds us that, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…

a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend.
(Eccl.3:1 and 3:2-7, various)

What time is it in your life? The edge of evening is approaching, and it’s time to get the comfort and support you need to begin the heart healing process.

The rest of your life is waiting.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

After a Breakup: Some Perspective on Dealing with Endings

Twilight. It’s a time of transition. As late afternoon fades into evening, the vivid colors of day disappear, and the sun dips slowly into earth’s edge. In the dimness before nightfall it becomes increasingly harder to see. Likewise, a relationship ending is your own “heart sunset.” Goodbye day; goodbye love.

There are probably a million reasons why it went south. But whether you initiated the split or the other person did, you may be feeling sad, hurt, angry, disappointed or really confused. Some days you just want to sob with your two new best friends, Ben and Jerry (and their ridiculously good frozen treats).

To start, we need some perspective on endings and losses:

1) You’re not a loser. Sometimes we lose people or things we treasure. But it does not mean we are losers.

2) Endings are a part of life. In fact, much of life is about beginnings and endings, transitions and changes, losing and finding anew. You graduate and start a job. You leave a job or move, and start another over again. Loss and gain, good and bad, life and death are all part of life, and life has its cycles.

3) Some endings are necessary. For example, if you were dating someone who treated you poorly, it’s your gain not your loss that he’s no longer in your life. Someone who is rude, obnoxious, or insulting is not a good choice of someone to bond with, much less spend the rest of your life.

4) Big picture. Often we only see things from our own point of view, but God sees the big picture of our lives; the past, present and future, and He knows what is best for each of us.

5) Change will come. You will not stay in this ending phase of life forever; a new beginning will come. You may not know when or how, but it will. Just like the springtime comes every year, even after the hardest of winters.

6) “It’s not always what happens to you, it’s how you respond to it that makes a difference.” So says author Chuck Swindoll. I believe him. You can choose to ignore your pain, numb out, try to forget about it, or do nothing. Or, in the midst of your pain and darkness, you can look to the light of God’s truth for hope, healing and wholeness. Either way, it’s your choice.

How you handle endings, or don’t, will determine how you move forward. Not sure how to do so? Keep reading and each week the blog posts will provide more information. You’re on your way to heart healing!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Getting Over a Breakup: Renovating Your Heart

Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.
Micah 7:8

He left you. You left him. Or, you both left. Whatever happened, breakups are messy, complicated and often devastatingly difficult. That’s because we’re designed for attachment and connection, not separation and disconnection.

Yet, for many singles, our dating lives are a series of hello’s and goodbye’s—attaching and detaching—from our teenage years until we stand at the altar (or don’t). We date and breakup, date and breakup in a crazy-making cycle. Often, people who marry and divorce find themselves back in the same pattern, too.

Doesn’t matter if it was two years, two months or two decades, the loss of love can be shattering. Your mind swirls with questions: What did I do wrong? Why did he leave? Aren’t I worth being loved well? What if I never find anyone like him again? What if I never find anyone again?

One day you’re sad, the next day you’re angry, and suddenly you’re just numb; you don’t feel anything because it just hurts too much to feel. Maybe you feel rejected, betrayed, or broken-hearted. If you’re the one who left him, you may be suffering guilt and shame. Either way, you just want the pain to stop. You want healing and you want answers.

Is it possible to get through this fragmenting process without falling to pieces?

Yes. Thankfully, yes.

Even though your relationship may have faded like a California sunset, your life can start again land of new beginnings. Just remember, it takes time—and a whole lot of truth—and it’s a process. A journey.

Your healing journey from pain to joy is like the cycle of a day—it goes from darkness to light. We’ll talk more about all this stuff in blog posts all through the month of January. But for now, here’s the big picture.

You’ve basically got these four stages: Twilight, Night, Dawn and Day.

Twilight is a time of endings.

Night is the darkness of grieving your losses.

Dawn is the awakening of truth about your true identity, about who God is and His place in all of this.

Day breaks is a brand new beginning, moving forward with joy into your future.

Bottom line: God redeems loss and pain and heals the heart to love again. He is all about restoration and transformation—from sadness to joy, from rejection to acceptance, and from brokenness to wholeness. The One who loves you most can help you reconnect again—to God, yourself, and others—and in the process to discover what real, healthy love looks like so you can make wiser choices next time.

The good news is that despite your soul injuries, you can live a full and joyful life. It may feel like “The End,” but your new beginning will come.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Few Hope Quotes

When you've had a bad day...or just want a cup of warm hope, here are a few good quotes. Sometime we need a bigger perspective, that today is not all we have, that there is more, infinitely more to come. Today may be difficult, and life can have its ups and downs, be we hope for better days.

One day, all things will be made right. That is our wildly good Hope. Today, we press on.

In the end it will be okay. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

I've read the last page of the Bible. It's all going to turn out all right.
(Billy Graham)

You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. (Joshua 23:14).

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Reshaping Your Life: Lessons from a Glassblower

Your hands shaped me and molded me.
(Job 10:8a, NIV)

Glassblowing is a fascinating art. It’s awe-inspiring to watch a highly skilled craftsman create multi-colored swirls from the basic elements of sand and coloring agents to shape, for instance, a vase.

The process is fascinating: melted glass is gathered from a very hot furnace on the end of a long metal blowpipe. The glass itself is about 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit and has a gooey consistency, like honey.

Highly trained glassblowers breathe air through the blowpipe to the center of the glass goo, twirling and shaping it into something unique and grand. Then he uses a variety of tools to shape the glass into its final form.

As the glass cools, it must be reheated or it will begin to stiffen. As it is reheated the glassblower can continually shape and reshape the object for a longer length of time until he achieves the desired result.

When the piece is finished, it’s placed in a kiln (an oven) for the cooling. This is a slow process, for if it is heated or frozen too quickly, it will crack.

Such aptitude and artistry reminds me of how our Creator, the Master Artist, is in the continual process of molding and remolding us. With mastery and unsurpassed ability, God lovingly shapes us to help us become all we are intended to be. He knows what He is doing and He excels at the craft.

You may feel like you’re in the hot furnace of trials and afflictions. Yet, it’s in those very times we become pliable in the hands of the expert. We become more beautiful and useful in the process.

We are His works of art. Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us in an art gallery but asks us to go out into the world and share the beauty and usefulness He has given us with others.