“God can heal a broken heart, but He has to have all the pieces.” That’s from a fortune cookie I ate shortly before deciding to go to Costa Rica or not. Times were different then. I was recklessly impulsive and in a constant state of internal conflict. I didn’t trust myself, and I didn’t know how to weigh the consequences, nor did I really care what they were. I just wanted an out. I needed an escape. I needed to be anywhere but here. Anywhere but Arvada, Colorado pop. 100,000. Too much had happened and too many things were left unsaid.
I took it as a sign. Back then everything was a sign leading me one way or another. But this one, this one would take me somewhere I had never been before.
Expectations are a funny thing. You often only realize what they were once you’re faced with the disappointment of them being unmet. I left Arvada expecting to leave everything else behind too. I expected in some ways, to be ‘fixed’. I expected that if I gave God these five months of my life He would heal me, and I’d be happy. That’s what healing is, isn’t it? To be fixed and happy? I expected the emptiness eating at me or the heaviness drowning me or the doubts dissecting me to just disappear, to fade away with my past. Isn’t that what we hear all the time? Jesus is someone who takes away the pain, makes our lives better, relieves our suffering?
I know I was promised those things by the well-intentioned people who desperately wanted me to know there was hope. But as the years have passed I’ve come to believe hope is something quite different, healing doesn’t always mean happiness and maybe Jesus brings us through our suffering rather than provides a way out.
I often wonder where I’d be hadn’t I gone to dinner that evening. I often wonder where I’d be hadn’t I gone back to Costa Rica a second time or third. This journey has taken me all over and now brought me back to Arvada, Colorado. It’s a time of closure and goodbyes, yet it is a time of new beginnings. And to think how much can change in just four short years out of eternity.
Coming back, I see this town and it’s people differently than I used to, and I see my self differently. Maybe I wasn’t just selfish and rebellious, maybe I wasn’t just a stoner or a sleaze or a sinner. Maybe I was just a normal person trying to navigate the pain, injustice, and grief that life brings to everyone and no one really talks about. Maybe our suffering, our healing, and our hope are what we must step into before we can see ourselves with the love and compassion we long for. Maybe starting our own journey first is the only way to bring others along the way. And maybe that’s why I had to leave at just 17 and maybe that’s why I choose to leave again not sure when I’ll come back. But I can leave with the assurance that …
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
It’s all too easy to confuse my own expectations with the reality of what God is promising. But four years after that little fortune cookie, I can honestly say healing is in the process, hope doesn’t always mean the situation will improve, and suffering is the very thing which produces endurance.