One night as I drove home, heart aching, soul wounded, I heard Rich Mullins singing …
"Sometimes my life
Just don't make sense at all
When the mountains look so big
And my faith just seems so small."*
I pulled over to the side of the road because I could barely see through my tears.
Mountains and faith, I thought, That is just about it for me. My heart just that evening had been torn by yet another rejection. It was only one incident in the big picture but it hurt as though my soul had been torn open. I had experienced failure in relationships till my mind produced a MOUNTAIN that my very small faith was unable to move. For all I was worth I could not make sense of it all.
I carried with me the scars of relationships gone bad and bore the bruises of poor decisions. I was shaped by the setbacks and disappointments, marred by my own lack of wisdom. I took risks because it was the only way to live, but along the way I suffered loss. I felt as though I had nothing left to give and was operating at a deficit.
We have all built our hopes up only to see them come crashing down again. This is an old tale and "as common as the rain."* Still, saying that these setbacks are common does not take away the pain, does not reduce the deficit. We still suffer loss, and that loss is hard to bear.
One day it hit me that the common denominator of all my failed relationships was ME! If I was the common denominator, I reasoned, then I must be the problem. I was the failure. It was no good to tell me that this was not true. I KNEW it was not true, but my ability to deflect these lies had been depleted.
This, too, is quite common. Too often we walk away from relationships feeling like failures because the relationship failed. Add enough failures together and your prospects can seem pretty bleak. It does not matter that this is not the truth of the matter, it is how failure can make you feel.
The idea that you are a failure simply because you are single is a cancer, an unrelenting and aggressive disease that knows no mercy. Without remorse or pause, it will waste its victims. It took me quite a while to heal from that disease.
We live by grace. So these failed relationships were just that and nothing more—failed relationships. They were and are outside me. They are outside you and do not define you.
At the end of my first real relationship, I felt as though I had stayed on a dying ship for far too long and that some of me had gone down with that ship. Somewhere in that crucible I lost track of me.
The result of swallowing too many lies was that it nearly drowned my soul. Though I was near drowning in my soul, I did not look much different. In fact, I functioned normally and smiled. But something in me had died.
Something in us will be a little less eager to risk, less bold, and too easily deterred if our soul is drowned by the sorrow. When Rich Mullins sang I understood his words.
"Surrender don't come natural to me.
I'd rather fight You for something I don't really want
Than to take what You give that I need.
And I've beat my head against so many walls
Now I'm falling down, I'm falling on my knees.*
I am a man who liked to have the answers. I am a man who wanted to know "Why?" The hardest thing was always to admit when my own resources were expended. I, too, had "blisters on my heart" by fighting for things I didn't even want.
I "beat my head against too many walls" because I just couldn't accept that there was no door. It was pure stubbornness, but it flowed from my deficit living. Something in me NEEDED it to work out. Or rather, something in me thought I needed it to work out. Something in my soul thought feeding on that relationship would be healing.
Sometimes the thought of losing again was just too much to bear. You may know something is not profitable, but in your deficit living just want anything to work out. You may just want to win, so you fight well beyond the point of good sense until the blisters form on your heart.
What I wanted for a long time, what made me feel empty and broke, was the desire to go back and do it right or get it right. I wanted to go back and break those relationships with clean edges. Yes, clean edges, not the ragged mess I felt I had made of the past. Clean edges would have been nice.
I wanted to get rid of the feeling that I had failed or that I was a failure. Success would have meant simply handling it all with maturity and godly wisdom. Success would have meant leaving the ship while it was still afloat, knowing it was not where I belonged.
But there was and is no going back. What we have lost is not in the past. We have to come to grips with and overcome this thought about the past. It is not the past we need, but the future. It is not about changing the past, but learning from it. It is about getting free from that burden to make something work out.
I remember sitting on the side of the road singing quietly through my tears:
"Hold me Jesus, ‘cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace."
My heart was still hurting from that night's blisters. My soul was still suffering from the longing like starvation. I was still longing and hoping, but I was reminded of something that had sadly escaped me for a bit—I was not alone. We are encouraged to "cast [our] cares on the LORD and He will sustain" us. This has proven true for me in many moments of need. Truly "He will never let the righteous fall" without being there to comfort them (Psalms 55:22).
If your heart has been bruised, sing softly to the Lord, "hold me Jesus." If you are in need, then "cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). He has been your "King of glory" and will even now be your "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
*Rich Mullins, "Hold Me Jesus"
Hudson Russell Davis was born on a small Island in the West Indies called Dominica, and this is only one reason he does not like cold weather and loves guava. He is a graduate of James Madison University with a B.A. in Graphic Design and earned a Masters in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. Currently he is a Ph.D. candidate at Saint Louis University studying historical theology. Hudson has worked as a graphic artist and worship leader but expresses himself through poetry, prose, photography, and music. His activities are just about anything outdoors, but tennis is his current passion. He and his wife Rachel were married in 2009.
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**This article first published on November 9, 2010.