As we’re nearing the end of 2020, I’m beginning to see people posting about their “word of the year” for 2021. If you’re not familiar with this process, it usually involves asking God for a word to cling to in the coming year—something to fix your mind on as a guidepost. For example, my word for this year was “abide.” It was intended as a reminder to stay close to God through His word and prayer as I made some big leaps this year. For the purposes of this post, I’d like to rewind to the year 2018 when my word was “heart”. At first, it meant giving my all to something and not giving up, keeping determination and focus. Somewhere along the line it changed and became a symbol instead. Every time I saw the shape of a heart it would remind me that God loved me. As it turned out, this was going to be a critical reminder for me in the months to come.
I had been dating a guy for about four months when I got the “we need to talk” text. This was about six weeks before Thanksgiving 2018. When the relationship came to its inevitable conclusion, I was angry with God and struggling to process what happened. To be fair, the relationship was horrible, and I should have seen it coming. I exerted tremendous amounts of energy trying to take something inherently faulty and make it work. I was in denial. I convinced myself that God wanted me in this relationship (despite all evidence to the contrary) and fought in vain to save it.
By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I still hadn’t fully accepted the weight of reality. I hate dealing with any kind of pain and I think my brain was trying to protect me from the fallout. I spent that night at my parents’ house because I didn’t feel like driving the 50 minutes or so back home. I woke in a foul mood the next morning and decided not to join my family for additional festivities. Instead, I stayed home and cried.
When my family returned, I was broken and raw and mad at the world. I got into an argument with my dad about something trivial, went back to my room, and slammed the door like a wounded child. I began packing up my stuff and within minutes declared I was going home.
I drove in complete silence for 20 minutes before I decided to pray. That prayer turned into a string of expletives where I grabbed the steering wheel and screamed, “IF YOU’RE REAL, THEN DO SOMETHING!!!” I felt more abandoned by God in those few moments than I ever have in my life. I told Him I wasn’t sure He even existed. In retrospect, I realize how little sense that made, but I was hurt and confused. And yet, in my journal that day I wrote these words,
“I realize now that my feelings of torment in the relationship were the beginning of a death I need to die.” I needed to die to the notion that I had to change who I was to be accepted by someone.
Despite this knowledge, I still woke up angry the next morning. I continued to rail obscenities at God—this time in my journal. I’m looking at it now and it still hurts to see it.
This phrase shows up several times in the Bible and has the power to change the story being told. I had screamed obscenities at Him in my car and my journal, but God was about to show me I was always accepted by Him.
I went downstairs to make my coffee, only, for whatever reason, I did my steps out of order. My normal routine was to put the coffee in first, then the milk and sugar. For some reason, that morning I grabbed a spoonful of sugar, dumped it in the cup, and let the spoon rest there while I went to go grab the coffee pot.
When I came back, I did a double-take as I looked at the sugar that had stuck to the spoon. It had created the shape of a heart. It felt like God telling me that no matter how much I screamed at Him or said horrible things, He understood. And He still loved me anyway.
Two years later, and the above photo is still the lock screen on my phone. I can’t bring myself to change it. It serves as my constant reminder of who God is.
He’s the God who will listen to me scream horrible things at Him, and then draw a heart in sugar so I don’t forget how much He loves me.
Friend, if something is burning in your heart that you need to say to God, say it. I promise you He is big enough to handle it, and He won’t think less of you for doing so. To have an actual, meaningful relationship with someone, you have to be honest. God already knows your heart; give Him a chance to show you His.
Jen Birchler is an artist, though she has only recently decided to bravely call herself that and share her art with the world. Shop her art at Jen Birchler. Her blog is where she shares her journey to untangle the lies she has believed about God and about herself. She’s a lifelong resident of Ohio who loves twinkle lights and eating breakfast foods for dinner. She has a BFA in Studio Art and is currently building her own small business. You can follow her on Instagram @jen.birchler.