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Broken Hearts

What romantic heartbreak teaches us about selfless love and serving others
Broken Hearts

I've heard people pray for God to break their hearts; I've even prayed that prayer myself without giving it much thought. Maybe because I'd never had a broken heart before. Always a late bloomer, I fell swiftly in love for the first time at age 27, and shortly after I turned 28 I suffered my first romantic heartbreak. I'll call him Coen, for all the Coen brothers' movies I endured due to my serious crush on him.

Our time dating had been fun but wrought with the tension that happens between two people when they want two different things out of life and out of their relationship. One night Coen sent me a text asking if I'd meet him for dinner. He wanted to talk. Studies show that phrases like "We need to talk" are not followed by a marriage proposal or grandiose professions of love. I was getting dumped.

We met at the restaurant, ordered some food, and made small talk for a while. Then Coen looked into my eyes and told me he was walking away from what I had come to believe was "us." Had he been a doctor, he might as well have written me a prescription: "Take this broken heart, and don't call me in the morning."

I took it well—only because I had been crying my eyes out for two days prior, preparing my heart for the break. We somehow finished our meals while I expressed my bleeding heart and how much he meant to me, and he repeated, "I never meant to hurt you."

The Grieving Process

Breaking up sucks, but getting dumped is the worst. When you are the dumper, you walk away from a breakup conversation hurting, but feeling a sense of relief. When you are the dumpee, on the other hand, you leave with embarrassment, hoping your stabbed heart will wait to bleed until you are in the privacy of your own bedroom closet, praying your ego will retain its elasticity until you are alone with the thoughts of what must be wrong with you to make you so unlovable.

Being dumped is a grieving process. For the first couple of weeks I was in denial, sure he would turn back and forget this whole breaking-up idea. The next two weeks I was angry that he took it upon himself to end something that I hoped would turn out to be good. And then it finally settled in. The man I loved didn't want me anymore, and there was nothing I could do to change it.

Broken hearts are horrible, and once I'd experienced one for myself I questioned whether I'd ever ask God to break my heart again. During the first few weeks, I attempted to move on. I tried to ignore how down I was feeling, hoping I could dress well enough and put on enough make-up to disguise how sad I was. It didn't work. Sometimes the pull of being hurt and disappointed is too strong to mentally move on; emotions just aren't that logical.

It may be hard to imagine but, even when our hearts are broken, God is with us. The Bible offers this solace: "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18). God is not just a God who is there with you in good times. He is a God who is there with you all the time. As painful as it is to walk through, God uses our broken hearts to teach us something.

Lessons Learned

Outside of our own personal circumstances, there is a world of hurting people whose situations should break our hearts. This is probably the origin of those prayers I heard people pray. It can be so easy to go about our day and our lives solely concerned with ourselves, when there are people around us hurting and in need every day.

Whether you go to another country or serve in your neighborhood, what's most important is that you live a life that's about more than your own. Allow yourself to get close enough to someone, or to an injustice or cause, that it could break your heart. Possibly in the process of taking that risk, you can help to mend broken hearts and prevent some hearts from being broken in the first place.

Maybe to some degree we're supposed to keep a broken heart. Because to the extent we don't we're not exemplifying the life Jesus lived, as that is what it really means to be a Christian. It's not just where you go to church on Sunday, or if you wear T-shirts with Scripture on them; being a Christian means being like Jesus. He was selfless, and as much as I'd like to excuse myself because I'm tired, spent, traveling, whatever, if I'm going to be like him I have to live like the world doesn't revolve around me. And get this: the world does literally revolve around Jesus. He's God! But even he came to earth to serve others and put their needs before his own.

Our challenge is not just to say these things because they sound good and then go on watching our favorite TV shows every night as usual. Our challenge is to find people in need and serve them. Not because it makes us feel better. Not because we're better than them. Truth is, we're all in need. We learn when we serve with hearts that want to learn, listen, and understand. Serving others keeps our hearts broken in the best way.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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