“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.
I will remove from you your heart of stone
and give you a heart of flesh.”
Hard substances like stone or glass don’t just break – they shatter. And when they shatter, they go everywhere. It’s not uncommon, after dropping a glass in the kitchen, to find a shard of it with your foot days or even weeks later.
My heart shattered three years ago. It’s difficult to believe that it can be so long ago and yet so recent… I’m still finding shards of it in all sorts of unexpected places.
The other day I was riding in the car with my mother-in-law… my new mother-in-law. She listens to country music. I don’t really like country, but it’s full of nostalgia for me – my mother’s music of choice, too. And this song by Rebecca Lynn Howard came on the radio. I knew the chorus, but I had never really learned the verses as a child:
I should ask but I wont…. was it love, or just her touch?
‘Cause I don’t think I wanna know
So get you some things and get out
Don’t call me for a day or two so I can sort this out
…it’s a song about adultery. Dear Lord, it was a song about my life.
And there I was, suddenly three years in the past…finding those Facebook messages with that woman…listening to his parents make excuses for him…sitting in counseling with him raging against me for calling it “adultery” when he was “just talking to her”…the condoms in the trash again at the intervention a year later…walking in on them when I unlocked the door to my apartment so someone could serve him the divorce papers.
I couldn’t cry. How could I explain to my new mother-in-law how much that song hurt me? Would it make her doubt my commitment to her son? My readiness to be in a new marriage, let alone even a relationship? I felt sick with pain… it was like sitting on those steps all over again, unable to walk after seeing them in my apartment together.
But the nausea faded. And by the time we left Michael’s I had forgotten about it, was excited to have an email from my husband talking about his plans for his start up business. I love him deeply. There’s nothing missing from what we have, but… sometimes it feels like I’m still missing pieces. Pieces that broke years ago, that I still haven’t found yet.
Like when I was watching Glee today (*spoilers*) – Puck comes back in his army uniform, he and Quinn express their feeling of being soul mates, and they live happily ever after with their high school sweetheart. I gave them such bitter tears. “That’s not how it really works,” I thought.
I don’t understand. Is that what I want? For it to have worked out with my high school sweetheart, to be living my happily every after with him? No. I think the pain and the struggle and the growth I went through with him made me into a better, more whole person. But I also think that we weren’t right together – that we clashed and fit together in so many ways that were harmful to both of us. And I think the way my husband and I fit together now is positive and powerful, and that we build each other up and encourage each other in a way that my high school sweetheart and I never did.
Then why am I crying about high school sweethearts not living happily ever after? Because it’s part of a bigger, harder, crueler lesson that doesn’t go away just because the pain of the moment has passed: The world will hurt you. Nothing lasts forever, and the universe is unwaveringly impartial in whom and what it takes from us.
Our choice is whether or not we will also let the world heal us. Because Ezekiel says we do get to choose – to have a heart of stone, or a heart of flesh. True, a tender heart may wound more easily – I’ve cried more in the past 3 years than in the entirety of the prior twenty-six closed off, anxious, fearful years. But I’ve also had more joy than I ever thought could be possible, because a heart of flesh can also heal itself… even if you never do find all the missing pieces.