Have you ever felt like your world has suddenly stopped and you’re not sure how to move forward?
It’s a bit overwhelming.
My senior year of college, I went through a difficult break-up (I’m talking about a give-back-the-ring kind of break up). I haven’t thought about it in a long time, but back then it pretty much rocked my world. Not only did I have to navigate the logistics of calling off a wedding, as well as all the feelings that come with the end of a serious relationship, but I also found myself suddenly needing to rethink all my future plans.
I felt like I was drowning- it was hard for me to focus on anything else.
This was a problem, because life continued all around me. My professors didn’t cancel class just because I was going through a break-up. My broken heart did not excuse me from writing papers and taking tests. I was still expected to show up, to go to work, to fulfill my obligations.
Life went on, and I was supposed to go on with it, whether I knew how or not.
So, I woke up the next morning, climbed out of bed, and just did the next thing. I didn’t always do it well, and I cried a lot in between, but I did it. I put one foot in front of the other and kept moving forward.
Step by step.
Over time, moving foward became a little bit easier. I was able to reflect on that relationship and learn from it. I was able to take responsibility for my part in things, and identify ways I needed to grow. I knew what I was looking for and what I needed to avoid. And all the while, I kept moving forward in the other areas of my life as well.
It took a long time before I was able to open myself up to love again. I wanted to, but I was afraid. I was scared of messing things up, of losing a friendship, of losing myself. It was hard, and it was scary. I wasn’t sure how to move forward.
I am so grateful for friends who walked that journey with me. They were so patient with me when I wasn’t sure what I wanted. They encouraged me to take risks and to take my time. They listened as I processed my ping-ponging emotions and spoke wisdom to my wary heart.
Above all, they loved me well and continually pointed me to Jesus.
They helped me move forward.
Moving forward didn’t mean I forgot, nor did it mean I didn’t care. It was simply a necessary part of life, so I did it. I didn’t really have a plan; I just figured out my next steps as I went.
Many of you know this feeling well. Perhaps you have lost a spouse, or parent, or even a child. Maybe you’ve had to let go of a marriage or a dream. Whatever the case, you know what it feels like to hardly be able to breathe, and yet somehow have to find a way to continue moving forward.
One tiny step at a time.
The past few months, and the last week in particular, have made it difficult for many of us to know how to move forward.
We don’t want to move on too quickly.
We don’t want to be insensitive to others.
We don’t want to act like nothing ever happened.
We don’t want to say the wrong thing or not say the right thing.
We want to make a difference, but we’re not sure how.
We find ourselves paralyzed, not sure when or how to move forward.
And yet, life continues on around us. Family and children and work await our attention. For just a little while, the world seemed to hold its breath, but at some point it needs to exhale and start breathing again.
And that’s okay.
It’s okay to move forward.
You don’t have to forget, and it doesn’t mean you didn’t really care. Your emotions may still be all over the place, or you may be confused about what to do next. It’s okay- in the words of Elisabeth Elliot, “Just do the next thing.”
The “next thing” looks different for everyone. Some of you may be called to change a diaper while others are called to change the world.
Whatever you do, do it in love, and it will be a step forward.
The morning after my college break up, I grabbed my Bible from my nightstand. I had been reading through the Psalms, and my Psalm for that day was Psalm 30, which was so timely. This verse in particular instilled in me the strength and hope I needed to move forward:
“Weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” -Psalm 30:5
Joy comes in the morning!
I don’t know about you, but it’s time for me to start moving forward.
I don’t have all the answers, or even a well-thought out plan, but that’s okay. I just need to take a step, and I’ll figure the rest out as I go.