I was fourteen. And I was fairly certain I was going to die.
I’m not given to drama or histrionics either one normally, nor was I back then as a young teenager. But I met a boy when I was fourteen and declared myself in LOVE with a screeching capital L-O-V-E, from the moment he shot me his crooked smile and proved with his honeyed words and his chivalrous actions that he was, in fact, the smoothest seventeen year old boy ever created. As the fall carried on into winter and then into springtime, I swore that I would never, ever, ever feel about anyone else the way that I felt about him. And what need would I have to, since our scribbled notes to one another promised “4-evah,” don’t you know? Oh, bliss at the high school, where the cutest senior in the marching band picked a lowly freshman like me — ME! — to lavish all of his attentions, his affections, and for a time, his adoration on.
Until, of course… he didn’t. Twenty years later, I can still remember the phone call that ended it all. And I can recall how I honestly thought the world would stop spinning because I would not end up marrying that boy. Oh, the horror. Oh, the heartbreak.
Oh, the drama.
It’s funny now, but it wasn’t then. I spent the better part of the evening listening to Eddie Vedder screech “Black,” bawling my eyes out, and knowing that no one would ever understand the depths of my pain. Pain, people. PAIN! If you’ve never been a fourteen year old girl, you just don’t get it, okay?!
I went to sleep, not even sure that I wanted to wake up and face whatever came next. I remember sitting on my bed that next morning, dressed and ready for school, red-eyed with my lip still quivering, when my mother came in and asked, “Are you going to be okay?”
No! I will NEVER be okay again! I can almost hear my teenage self screaming it at her, but thankfully, before I could utter even one hysterical word, she said, “It’ll hurt a little less tomorrow than it did today. And a little less the next day. Until one day, Jennifer? It won’t hurt at all.”
I doubted her. Because like most teenagers, I was WAY smarter than my mother. And surely, SHE had never loved like I had, right? (Sigh.) But I went on, head held high, and made it through, day by day, week by week, month by month.
And in time? It did hurt less. And when that boy did inevitably come back from college, shot me his familiar smile, called me Jenn in that amazing voice of his, and waited around after the football game for the opportunity to drive me back home… well, it wasn’t like it had been. A few dates to confirm what we both suspected, that we had moved on and were in very different places now, then goodbyes said forever, and… suddenly, it didn’t hurt anymore. Not at all.
Because I was different. And my hope was in something more than a boy.
That tragedy, silly though it now seems, was a tragedy of epic proportions back then. But it lasted only a while. And even then, even way back then, in the heartache that was sowed in a high school relationship, an expectation was put into my heart for something one day that would be better. And I’m not talking about the wonderful relationship I find myself in now, with a godly husband who loves and honors Christ. (A husband who was, incidentally, all of eleven years old back when this all started out and was likely back in San Antonio playing with his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures and proclaiming that girls had cooties. Hooray for younger men!)
My disappointment and my hurt, even then, could have been utterly wasted if it had simply directed my heart and my wants towards ANOTHER man, towards the future hope of ANOTHER relationship. I’m confident that God eagerly anticipates using all of our tragedies — big and small — to point us to our utter need for something more substantial, more eternal, and more perfect than that which we find to fill ourselves with here. When my heart was broken, my comfort was not in the promise that some day, there would be someone better for me. My comfort was not in the assurance that I deserved better than heartache and breakups. My comfort was not in the hope that I could have more than a relationship that didn’t stand the test of time.
My comfort was in knowing that the need I had, that a boy couldn’t meet, to be seen, known, understood, and perfectly loved was met in Christ. And I wouldn’t have known it, would not have embraced it, had I not had a brief season of sadness. (Okay, so it was TRAGIC sadness back then. Even better, right?)
As I see people around me who are hurting, I’m praying that every heartache, every disappointment, and every disillusionment with this world won’t be wasted but will be an opportunity for Christ to show us our need, show us our lacking, and show us how He is everything.