Scenes From a [temporary] Break Up with Jesus

images-14As I was bustling about my prep work one morning, a co-worker whom I adore asked if I wanted to hear a horrible joke. Assuming it was a sex joke, which, you know, I’m always down for because I’m a terrible person– I said yes. But it wasn’t. It was actually a Jesus joke– and had I known that, I would’ve said no thanks. Sex jokes are funny and naughty and even if they turn out to cross every boundary you have, you can easily forget about them. Not so much with Jesus jokes. The joke was short and to the point and as soon as it was over, I gave a fake laugh and a half-smile and said, “Sorry- nope. Can’t do that one. Not funny.” I didn’t want her to feel too bad about it because the truth is, this person really has no idea about Jesus-y things. If I can be so presumptuous and naive to say this– she doesn’t know better. But as I turned back to my work, my heart was heavy and tears pricked my eyes.


I’m gonna be honest– over a year ago or so, I told Jesus I was breaking up with Him. Maybe not forever, but I needed a break. I even used “It’s not you, it’s me.” (Although He and I both sort of knew…it kind of WAS Him.) And since then, I have struggled and wrestled with Him. I have cried and said mean things to Him and shook my proverbial fist in misunderstanding and hurt feelings and unmet expectations. I have cried into my pillow at night and whispered worries and gratitudes and short prayers for loved ones. But we both knew things had changed. I have heard Him whisper, “Please come closer–” and I have held my arms tight across my chest like the passive aggressive girl that I am and turned my head, all the while silently hoping He wouldn’t leave. That He would ask again. And again. I needed space. I needed time. I never wanted to see other people. I just didn’t know if I wanted to keep seeing Him. Or how He and I were going to bridge the gap that now felt like the Grand Canyon.

And you see as of late, my faith has been questioned. My love for God. My devotion to Jesus. And maybe rightly so. There was a collision of sorts happening all at once– the final undoing of my marriage intersected with the most profound spiritual awakening and insights I’ve ever experienced as an adult. And while some of these were good, necessary things, they were messy. Painful. Confusing. It’s sort of been an ongoing thing to wrestle with the deeper questions of love and faith. Of God and His somewhat unknowable ways. I have, at times, screamed in my heart, “Is this a game to you?! THIS IS MY LIFE!” And yet, like the girlfriend who just can’t let go, I’d always come back around, feeling shy and a little guilty for my bad behavior. “It’s not that I don’t love you,” I’d timidly point out. “I just don’t know what to do with you.” So feeling those tears– having hurt feelings and a heavy heart– on behalf of Jesus– was a beautiful, bizarre gift to me. Because hearing that joke was like hearing something rude about one of my kids or any person I love. The kind of thing where you think to yourself, “If you really knew them, you’d never say that. Because it’s so not true.” And though I wished I could un-hear it, I’ve come to see that it’s because I love Jesus so much. That’s why it hurts. And though I don’t need to prove that to anyone else (because I never really could anyway),  maybe I needed to prove it to myself.

The Fault in Our Stars and Everything That’s Right With my Heart

I’m right in the middle of reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and it is achingly beautiful and tragic and painful and funny and everything in between. Every single time I pick up this damn book there is a lump in my throat and tears well in my eyes. It undoes me. It presses a bruise inside my heart. But like a million books before this one, I wallow in it and I drink it in like a person who is dying of thirst because somehow the pain resonates. I keep reading and I almost weirdly enjoy that emotional tidal wave that threatens. This morning as I snuck in another 10 minutes of reading with my coffee and pumpernickel toast and egg whites, I had the most personally profound thought: All of these tears–these frequent tears– these tears that so closely associate with pain and loss and heartbreak–do not mean I’m broken, as I have always suspected. As I have been led to believe. As I have been told. And that I have been ashamed of. They mean I’m human. And I feel. And I have a big, warm, sometimes complicated heart . And this is not a fault. It is actually quite a beautiful thing.

Like the rest of the human race, I have known tragedy. I have known heartbreak and heartache. I have known my own personal suffering and therefore tears come easily. But I have long said to myself, and more so recently, that this was some sort of indication of my brokenness. A defect of sorts. And I have been told this, as well. And while there may be some partial truth to this- that there are broken parts of me, isn’t this also the human condition? I don’t believe this makes me unique or special in any way–but I have now come to realize-neither does it make me defective.

And in fact, could it perhaps actually be a gift? Not like in a cliche way that makes you want to slap someone who refers to suffering as gift– but could this fragile, tender-to-the-touch heart of mine be a gift for myself and the people whose paths I cross, instead of a burden to bear? Because it means when I say I feel your pain, I really do. Because sometimes I can’t help cry when a friend is crying. Because compassion and kindness and empathy are important-and it hurts when they’re not extended generously and often and without judgement or measure.

And though I do feel life deeply and cry easily, I also laugh easily. And a lot. And did I say easily and a lot? Despite the fact that one of my favorite things to do is be by myself with a book that is undoing my heart and mind (I know, I know…I sound like a real party in a box), I’m actually a truly happy and optimistic person. Is it possible that the heartache makes the happiness easier to recognize and perhaps that much sweeter? “So this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” (John Chbosky) But I do know this: I’m okay with it.