I’m turning 43 this summer, and this is the first time that I’ve been completely single, without the status of a relationship to cling to, since I was sixteen years old.
In my BC life (Before Christ), this status would have made me nervous and forced me to scramble to find the next thing, the next man, the next ‘love’. Scrambling was the way I lived my life. In the process of the scramble, I gave up everything that I thought made me valuable to another human being. Whether it was emotionally, physically, spiritually, or financially — if another person would love me for it, I was willing to give it.
This unbridled giving of myself and my resources left me completely drained. I felt like an empty cup. In the corporate world they use the acronym ROI, which translates to the “Return On Investment.” In my viewpoint the return in my relationships didn’t equal what I had invested. And in the two years since my last relationship ended, I’ve done my fair share of soul-searching and attempting to “find myself.” What I found surprised me.
I gave away so much that I had nothing left to give.
For every relationship that I was in, I gave a part of myself. A little bit with this one, a little bit with that one. While I’ve been a serial monogamist since I was a teenager, the fact remains that by the time I reached my forties, I’d given the majority of myself away. It’s no wonder that I felt so completely empty. I was! I spent so much time chasing after others to give me love that I failed to turn to God, who is the source of love. What I needed wasn’t another man, or another relationship, or even another project that would occupy my time and energy. What I needed was to spend time with the One who knows me better than anyone. I needed to build a relationship with God.
“Whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of God. There we will be treated with undeserved grace, and will find help.” – Hebrews 4:16 CEV
Comparison really is the thief of joy.
When a relationship ended, I found myself endlessly looking for something better than what I’d just gotten out of. Someone better looking, more talented, funnier. I wanted my ex to know that I had moved on in a big way. Likewise, when my ex moved on, I would stalk his social media for every scrap of information about his new life. But the only person that hurt was me. I became depressed, and wallowed in it for months. The darkness was so thick, that I fell into self-sabotaging situations. Cycles of unhealthy activity followed that left me even more depleted than the relationship had. I spent far too many hours looking everywhere but straight ahead. My head turned to the side so much after every single breakup of a relationship, it’s a wonder that I didn’t end up with whiplash.
“Keep looking straight ahead, without turning aside.” – Proverbs 4:25 CEV
What I was looking for in another person will never be found.
No one person will ever provide the fulfillment that I need. To be fulfilled, I need a mixture of joy that comes from a variety of sources be it extracurricular activities, my family and friends, and most of all from God.
The road back from nothingness has been a long and arduous one. I’ve fought against my own selfishness and struggled with my self-worth. I’ve sat in stillness with my own flaws and failure which hasn’t been pretty. I’ve admitted my own shortcomings and prayed about the mistakes I’ve made. My heart has been broken and mended over and over again.
After my focus turned back to God, and He became the most important part of my life, I felt better. I was better.
“His glorious power will make you patient and strong enough to endure anything, and you will be truly happy.” – Colossians 1:11 CEV
So what happens now?
I continue to move forward. I work through the remainder of my guilt. I forgive others. I forgive myself. I cling to the knowledge that while I am imperfect, I am still loved. God created me for a purpose. This is a season of change, and that is totally okay. I try to remember not to be anxious about anything. I pray for what has been, what is, and what’s to come. I experience the joy in that. When I feel empty, I turn to God and trust in His Grace. He chose me. It was time for me to choose Him, too. While I wouldn’t say that I’m a completely filled or overflowing cup, I’m definitely no longer an empty cup. I think now, I’m more of a “cup half full.”
“God always does what he plans, and that is why he appointed Christ to choose us.” -Ephesians 1:11 CEV