Your name flitted across my screen the other day and for the first time in years I felt that strange flicker of joy that always used to accompany your name. Why? I wondered. My heart had moved on and so had yours.
Then there was the other one whom I hadn’t thought about in so long. And in one dream, he was back like nothing had changed, and when I awoke, my heart felt sad.
And I wondered why. My heart had let go and healed. God had revealed to me why those boys of the past weren’t the ones for me. And my life is now full of things that bring me great joy. Why then do these moments of remembrance come, bringing a small ache with them?
Does it mean I’m actually not over them? Do I still have feelings for them? Should I be ashamed when such memories come to mind?
If I were to dwell on the thoughts or memories for too long, then the answer might be yes. But these pangs of past connections are simply a sign of our broken world and a reminder of where to put our hope. And as I’ve worked through the process of “moving on” over the years, I’ve come to realize a few things about those past connections with boys I cared for dearly.
There May Always Be a Tie to Them
There are plenty of little crushes in my past that no longer hold any significance or pain for me when I think about them. Maybe I “kind of” liked a guy for a little bit and then nothing happened, so I moved on. I hardly ever think of such guys, except to maybe mention in laughter to a friend, “Oh yeah! I used to have a crush on him for awhile.”
But there were others with whom I shared a close friendship and the bond went much deeper. And sometimes when we give pieces of our hearts to someone, we can’t ever get them back.
I read a book one time that had this line in it (although it wasn’t used in a romantic context):
“I loved her. And that couldn’t be undone.”
When I read those words, tears sprang to my eyes as I thought of the boys in my past to whom I had given some of my precious love. And that couldn’t be undone.
And although I no longer want there to be anything more with those boys, there remains a tiny gossamer thread that connects us, and which can’t be broken. I may not have wanted those connections to happen, but sometimes our hearts get woven with another’s before we realize it and it continues to have an effect on us every now and then.
In reality, I’m not sorry I gave that love away to those few boys in my past. We shared beautiful friendships, and the qualities they had made them worth caring for. Sometimes we think if something didn’t work out between us and another person that we should regret that it ever happened. If it was toxic or a bad choice, then yes, that might be appropriate. But if it was simply a matter of “we weren’t meant to work out,” we can still appreciate the value in the other person and the relationship that we shared.
It’s Okay to Feel the Hurt and then Move On
When the pangs of memory come back, and for a brief moment we feel sad about the other person or we miss them, that’s okay. They meant something to us, and we had real feelings for them. That isn’t something we can ignore or pretend didn’t happen.
In a perfect world, two people would always mutually have feelings for each other and a lifelong relationship would ensue because of it. Broken relationships or unreturned feelings are a sign that we live in a broken world.
Wounded hearts can be mended over time. But wounded hearts will still carry scars. And scars sometimes hurt when we accidentally hit them the wrong way. It might have been years since we saw or thought of one whom we used to care for. And then one picture or song brings back a flood of memories, and our hearts feels the hurt again.
When this happens, we should acknowledge the pain as part of our humanness. Then we should use it to lead us back to Christ, the Healer of all our heartaches. We commit our hearts, with all their scars to him, and sink more deeply into his grace and comfort than into the pitying “why didn’t that work out?” cycle.
And after the moment, the evening, or the day of sadness, we move on from it. We turn our minds back to the present reality and that which Christ has called us to. We tuck the memories away and don’t allow them to consume our minds. We focus more on our relationship with Christ than on the hauntings of the past. And as we do, he will make that pain distant once again.
There Will Be a Day When the Sadness and Pain are Gone
I know we can be tempted to wonder, “What was the point of that friendship/relationship even happening if it wasn’t going to lead to something more?” I wrote about that in “To All the Boys It Didn’t Work Out With.”
But sometimes when we feel like we’re content with the understanding of why it didn’t work out, we still have those momentary flashbacks of sadness, and we wonder, “What was the point of that? I didn’t need a reminder of how I used to feel sad about him.”
And in those cases, Revelation 21:4-5a comes to mind – “‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”
When we have these moments of sadness over broken or imperfect relationships on earth, they should remind us of our future hope when the tears and pain will be no more. Of the time when Christ will make all things new again, including our relationships with guys and girls that we once cared for. One day there will be no more awkwardness over unreturned feelings, no more exclusiveness in marriage relationships, no more bittersweet memories of what “once was.”
Just beautiful, brother-and-sister-in-Christ, restored relationships the way God meant them to be. For all eternity. And once we’re there, we’ll realize how shockingly temporal all these fleeting pains on earth were.
In the meantime, may we learn to submit them to Christ and trust that he is refining us through the process.
All glory be to his name.